The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the most important tool for prospective college students looking to receive financial aid for their education. Regardless of a family’s income, schools use the FAFSA to determine the best financial aid packages for students, while state agenices, such as Iowa College Aid, use the FAFSA to help award state grants and scholarships.
Needless to say, the FAFSA is vitally important, as is making sure that families fill out the FAFSA correctly. In order to help, the U.S. Department of Education created a list of five frequently asked questions to help students and families better handle the application process. Some highlights from the FAFSA FAQ include:
1. What is an FSA ID and do I need one?
The FSA ID is a username and password you use to log in to your FAFSA. You should get an FSA ID before you start the FAFSA. If you are required to provide parent information on your FAFSA, one of your parents needs an FSA ID too. Keep in mind that parents should not be making an FSA ID for their child or vice versa.
Parents will use their FSA ID to sign a dependent child’s FAFSA. However, if they are unable to get an FSA ID, they can mail a signature page.
2. How can I complete the FAFSA if my parents or I haven’t filed 2015 taxes yet?
When filling out the 2016–17 FAFSA, you’ll want to use financial information from the 2015 tax year. At this point in the year, many people haven’t received their Form W-2, let alone completed their 2015 taxes. But that shouldn’t stop you from submitting the FAFSA! If you or your parents have not completed your taxes yet, you can estimate your income and other tax return information, and then correct your application after you have filed your taxes.
3. When is the FAFSA deadline?
Because some types of aid are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, it is highly recommended that you fill out the FAFSA as soon as you can to ensure that you do not miss out on available aid.
4. Do I have to complete the FAFSA every year?
Yes, you need to fill out the FAFSA each school year because your eligibility for financial aid can differ from year to year for various reasons, including your family’s financial situation and the number of your family members enrolled in college.
5. Which FAFSA should I complete?
When you log into fafsa.gov, you will be given two different options: “Start a 2015–16 FAFSA” and “Start a 2016–17 FAFSA.” Which should you choose?
- If you’ll be attending college between July 1, 2015 and June 30, 2016, select “Start a 2015–16 FAFSA.”
- If you’ll be attending college between July 1, 2016 and June 30, 2017, select “Start a 2016–17 FAFSA.”
Remember, you must complete the FAFSA each school year, so if you’ll be attending college during both periods of time, you should fill out both applications.
To read the U.S. Department of Education’s FAFSA advice in further detail, visit their blog.