What is the FAFSA?
The FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid that ALL schools require. The federal government uses it to determine your eligibility for federal aid, which includes grants, scholarships, work-study and loans. We STRONGLY recommend filling the FAFSA out online as it is much faster and easier to catch mistakes.
Tips for Completing FAFSA
- IMPORTANT: ONLY FILL OUT YOUR FAFSA ON THIS WEBSITE: http://www.fafsa.ed.gov. IT IS FREE, SO DON’T GET TRICKED INTO PAYING FOR IT ON ANOTHER SITE. PLEASE BE CAUTIOUS WHEN GIVING OUT INFORMATION; YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER IS ONLY REQUIRED FOR THE FAFSA AND CSS PROFILE.
- *ALL FINANCIAL AID IS ON A FIRST COME, FIRST SERVED BASIS*
- Complete your FAFSA as soon as possible after January 1 (this is the soonest it is available). Early submission maximizes your chances of receiving financial aid. DO NOT WAIT!
- Submit the FAFSA even if you don’t think you qualify for aid. Sometimes being rejected for federal aid is a prerequisite for receiving private awards.
- Contact your prospective college’s financial aid office for additional information. Your school may require forms in addition to the FAFSA or may have an earlier submission deadline. Don’t forget to keep copies of all submitted documents for your records.
- If filling out the paper application, make sure it is in BLACK INK. They won’t accept it otherwise (including if it’s in blue!).
5 Common FAFSA Mistakes
- Do not leave a field blank. Use a zero if the question does not apply to you.
- Don’t forget to report ALL required sources of untaxed income, such as Social Security or child support.
- Use the 1040 federal tax return for reporting income taxes paid, not the W-2.
- Include yourself in your parents’ household size, even if you didn’t live with them the previous year.
- Sign the application. If you are filing as a dependent, make sure your parents sign too.
You want to file a FAFSA as soon as you can, but you and/or your parents haven’t filed your income tax forms yet. What should you do?
You can estimate what your 1040 federal tax return will look like by using your federal tax return from the previous year or by using the W-2 statements you and/or your parents receive shortly after the beginning of the year. REMEMBER though, that as soon as your federal tax return is filed, you must GO BACK TO YOUR SAR AND CORRECT THE INCOME INFORMATION. You can do this electronically if that’s the way you filed or by correction spaces provided on the hard copy of the SAR, if you received one. In addition, the colleges may need to be notified of any changes you have made. Check your prospective college’s financial aid office.
What is a PIN?
The Personal Identification Number (PIN) is the code that the U.S. Department of Education uses to identify you online. A PIN allows you to:
- Electronically sign your FAFSA, which can speed up the process
- Check the status of your electronic FAFSA
- Make any changes necessary to your personal information online
Keep your PIN private, as it allows you (or someone else) to electronically sign federal documents and access confidential information.
What is the Expected Family Contribution (EFC)?
The Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is a figure that projects what a family can pay for higher education in the upcoming year. Your family’s EFC is determined by the federal government through the information supplied in your FAFSA. Family income and assets, family size, number of household members in college, age of parents, and special circumstances such as medical or employment problems are all taken into account when calculating your EFC. Be certain that the colleges are aware of any extenuating circumstances that may exist in your family.
The Parental Contribution is determined after all income and assets are calculated to determine your family’s net worth. Home equity is not considered when applying for federal aid; however it is considered by colleges requiring the PROFILE when they consider distributing the college’s own funds. The final result of this analysis is the EFC, Expected Family Contribution.
The Student Contribution is determined after your earnings and assets are reviewed. Typically you are asked to contribute a portion of your personal savings. You are also expected to contribute a certain amount based on what you could realistically earn during the summer whether or not you actually choose to work. Should you receive merit-based awards from organizations outside of the college, these are considered as part of your available resources, or are applied against the self-help portion of your aid package.
Different colleges formulate their Financial Aid packages in different ways. Don’t be afraid to discuss these with the college financial aid office before making a final decision.
What is a SAR?
A Student Aid Report (SAR) is a report that is generated after you complete your FAFSA. It contains all the information you wrote or entered on the FAFSA, and it is your official record or proof that the federal processor received your FAFSA. You should receive a SAR within 4 â€“ 6 weeks if you filed a paper FAFSA, or 1 â€“ 2 weeks if you filed electronically.
If you provide an e-mail on your FAFSA (paper or electronic), you will receive your PIN and Student Aid Report (SAR) via e-mail only. You will not receive it via U.S. Postal mail.
If you find any errors on your SAR, report them to your prospective college’s financial aid office to ask how you should make corrections. Unresolved errors could delay your eligibility for aid.
Call 1-800-433-3243 (800-4-FEE-AID) if you do not receive your SAR in 4-6 weeks or 1-2 weeks if you filed electronically. Provide your name, Social Security Number and date of birth for verification.
Note your Data Release Number (DRN). Your DRN is the four-digit number located on the bottom left-hand corner of your SAR. You will need it to apply for aid to any school you did not originally list on your FAFSA.
Check if your SAR has been selected for verification. If there is an asterisk (*) after your EFC (Estimated Family Contribution, or the amount of money the government believes your family will be able to provide), it means your SAR has been selected for verification (one third of all SARs are selected). Your prospective college will compare your SAR with documents, including tax returns, which verify your financial status. If asked for verification, submit the information requested to your prospective college’s financial aid office ASAP.