TORCH Tip Thursday: Don’t Forget to Fill Out Your FAFSA!

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Happy New Year Everyone! Yes, it is a New Year and if you are an Undergrad or Grad student, with the New Year comes a new semester, more school work and of course the need for more money! Before you begin the semester and you get bombarded with a load of schoolwork remember to fill out your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Completing this form could help you receive financial aid you might be eligible for.

Below is a thorough explanation of what the FAFSA is and to fill it out. All the information was pulled from the following reliable sources: College Board.com, FAFSA.ed.gov, Federal Student Aid.ed.gov and Finaid.org/fafsa.

What is the FAFSA?

FAFSA is a federal application that needs to be completed in order for students to be eligible for federal and state student grants, work- study, and public and private loans. As mentioned in the video above, even if you don’t think you qualify, you should still fill out the FAFSA because you can never be 100% sure.

When and Where to Apply:

The FAFSA deadline is between January 1st (do not apply before Jan 1st) and June 30th. Keep in mind that the earlier you will out your FAFSA the more aid you can receive. It is also important for you to fill out your FAFSA as soon as possible because there maybe other deadlines you need to meet that require information from FAFSA. The FAFSA can be filed by paper or electronically. It is also available in English and Spanish.

Electronic Application

It’s faster, more accurate and easier to fill out and track an application online. When you fill the form out electronically the online program checks the information you entered before it is officially processed. The electronic version is easily accessible online at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/options.htm.

When filing online you will need a PIN – a personal identification number – that stays the same each year. You can apply for a pin at http://www.pin.ed.gov/PINWebApp/pinindex.jsp.

Paper Application

Paper FAFSA applications can usually be found in the Financial Aid building at your college or the College Office in your school. A paper copy can also be requested by calling (800) 433-3243. You can locate an English or Spanish PDF version of the FAFSA on http://federalstudentaid.ed.gov/fafsa_options.html.

Completing the Application:

In order to complete the FAFSA you will need your and/or your legal guardian’s most updated income tax returns. If you haven’t received your income tax returns you can use the one from the previous year or an estimate of the ones from the current year. The information can be update once you receive your updated income tax returns.

Other documents you will need before filling out the FAFSA include (remember to keep a copy of all these forms for your records):

  • Your and your legal guardians’ driver’s license and social security card.
  • Your and your legal guardian’s income tax return, W-2 forms, and 1099 forms for the previous year. If you are married, you will also need the documents for your spouse.
  • Current bank statements and mortgage information.
  • Records relating to stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and other investments.
  • Documentation of non-taxable income, ie: Social Security income, welfare benefits, TANF, AFDC, and Veterans Benefits.
  • Business and farm records.
  • Records relating to unusual family financial circumstances, such as medical expenses not covered by insurance, tuition expenses at elementary or secondary schools, unusually high child care costs, death, divorce, and loss of employment.

What Happens After You Apply?

Once you or your legal guardian submit the FAFSA, your family’s financial information is analyzed using the federal need formula. Then you will receive your Student Aid Report (SAR) and Expected Family Contribution (EFC). If applicable, you might also need to fill out additional forms such as a CSS Profile, that your school might request.

SAR/EFC

The SAR contains all the data you and your legal guardian entered on the FAFSA. You will receive it by e-mail (three to five days) or postal mail (two to three weeks). Make sure to review the SAR carefully for errors and follow directions for making and promptly submitting corrections.

At the upper right of the front page of the SAR, you’ll find your EFC, which is a preliminary estimate of the amount your family can contribute to college costs. The EFC is sent electronically to the colleges that were listed on the FAFSA. Colleges and other sources of financial aid use this to determine your aid award.

Your colleges may request copies of signed tax returns or other information to verify the information reported on the FAFSA. Be sure to furnish this information as soon as possible after you receive the request.

Help with the FAFSA

If you or your legal guardian have questions about the application, FAFSA on the Web, or federal student financial aid in general, call:

Federal Student Aid Information Center (FSAIC)
800-4-FED-AID (433-3243) / TTY 800-730-8913
Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to midnight Eastern Time
Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Time

You can also request The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid’s the Counselors and Mentors Handbook on Federal Student Aid at (800) 394-7084 or visit http://www.fsapubs.gov/

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