Leaves are falling, pumpkin spice is everywhere and the FAFSA, Free Application for Federal Student Aid, hops back into existence like a jump scare in a horror film.
On Oct. 1, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid began taking applications again.
The FAFSA is what determines how much financial aid students get for school. It is also required for some scholarships such as the Hope scholarship. Even if you think that you won’t get any aid, fill out the FAFSA. It’s still possible to get some.
The process is long and most times confusing. And it adds to the, “I’ll get to it later,” pile for college students across the US. However, it is a vital part of attending higher education.
Here are some tips and tricks that will make your FAFSA experience smoother and less stressful.
It’s easy to push the FAFSA down the road to February. However, this is hurting your chances of getting the best aid package you can get. The quicker you apply, the more aid you can get. Therefore, it is easiest to just knock it out early.
Carve out a set hour of your day to fill out the FAFSA. Try and finish it all at once. Splitting it up provides more room for error.
Gather your Information
Have all of the information you will need throughout filing ready and on hand. In other words, be prepared. You will need your Social Security number, your tax returns and proof of earned income and more. You can find a complete list on the student aid website.
Save your Passwords
This one seems obvious but it is easy to lose track of a password over the course of a year. The easiest way to do this is to keep it in a place you know you will have access to in a year.
Also, don’t forget to save your parent’s log-in information. That way if they lose theirs, you have a back-up, and logging into the application will be one less thing to worry about.
Online Tax Return Retrieval
If possible, select the option provided to import your taxes automatically. This is quick and less likely to result in mistakes than inputting your information by hand. This option also lowers your chance of getting selected for verification later in the year.
This is an important part of college. Be careful when entering your information and make sure it is all correct. When you are finished with each section, go through again and check for mistakes. A simple error could stand between you and money for school.
It’s impossible to stress this enough. Don’t let a simple typo come between you and money for college.
Have a second set of eyes check for you as well. Ask your parents to go through and verify what they can. This reduces your chance of error even more.
Don’t leave blanks
Instead of leaving an option or field blank, enter “0” or “not applicable.” This reduces the chance of error. In addition, it is less likely that you will be sent back for leaving too many options blank. Too many blanks can also result in the rejection or miscalculation of an application.
There is a lot of information, specific to your parents and their income, that you might not know. Have your parents help you fill out the FAFSA. Especially if you’re filing for the first time.
Get help from your school. Most high schools provide help with the FAFSA. Contact a counselor or a teacher to guide you through the process.
Many universities and colleges, like UT, provide supplemental help for filling out the FAFSA. Onestop is available for walk-ins and appointments in John C. Hodges Library on campus. You can also email Onestop or call for assistance.
UT’s priority filing deadline is Feb. 1.
Edited by Donna Mitchell and Ryan Sylvia
Featured Photo Courtesy of Gracie-Lee Strange