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Financial Aid

FAFSA® time is just around the corner

Individual working on a laptopIf you’re looking for financial aid, every college to which you're applying needs to receive a FAFSA. The FAFSA is short for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, and it becomes available on October 1st. Before you complete the FAFSA, there are a few things you should do to prepare, which we’ve outlined below. Completing these tasks will make filing the application even easier, and get you well on your way to receiving financial aid for college.

  • Get your FSA IDs. Since there is a parent section and a student section on the FAFSA, the student and one parent both need their own FSA ID. This is a unique identifier that is used to sign and submit the application, so you can’t successfully complete the FAFSA without one. Your FSA ID is yours for life, so it’s wise to have a designated area or folder in which to keep this information for future years. You can obtain your FSA ID anytime (even before October 1st) here.

  • Grab your 2016 federal tax return(s). The FAFSA will ask for income and asset information from both the student and the parent. Income is based on the tax year two years prior, so students applying for 2018-19 financial aid will need to provide 2016 tax return information for the parent(s) and student. You may be able to import much of this information directly from the IRS using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, but this tool is not open to every type of filer and not every piece of required information will necessarily be available. It’s therefore a good idea to have your 2016 W2s and federal tax return ready to manually input information.

  • Get a non-filer letter. Not everyone filing a FAFSA will have filed taxes in 2016. If you weren’t required to file and thus didn’t for 2016, you can simply indicate this on the FAFSA. The application will then skip all of the taxable income questions. You may be asked to verify your non-filer status by getting a non-filer statement from the IRS. This form affirms that you did not file taxes in 2016. You can learn how to request a non-filer statement here.

  • Compile the college list. When you complete the FAFSA, you’ll be asked to list the colleges to which the student is applying. Include all colleges on the student’s list, even if the admissions applications have not yet been sent. There are spaces for 10 schools. If you’re applying to more than 10, list your first 10 and submit the FAFSA. A few days later, the student will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) indicating the successful submission of your FAFSA to those colleges. At that point, you can log into your FAFSA, remove those colleges, and add in the remaining schools on the student’s list. You can add additional colleges to your FAFSA anytime over the next several months.

  • Create a family email address. Important correspondence like the Student Aid Report mentioned above will be communicated to the student via the student’s email address as given on the FAFSA. If this is something to which other family members would like access, you may want to create a new family email address, accessible by both the student and the parents, and use that on all financial aid applications, so that no important information is missed.


As you prepare to file your FAFSA, make sure you find out and adhere to each school’s financial aid deadline (listed on each college or university's financial aid website). Submitting your FAFSA and other financial aid applications on time is so important, as funds can run dry, and late applicants can miss out on significant amounts of financial aid dollars. And remember, if you have questions about your FAFSA, we’re happy to help. You can call us at (800) 449-MEFA (6332) or email us at collegeplanning@mefa.org.

 

 





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