The Federal government allocated $120 billion this year for grants, work-study programs, and
loans to help students pay for college. Yet 47% of this year’s applicants failed to submit the form that entitles them to their fair share of these funds.
The high school Class of 2021 submitted the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) at a rate 5% lower than the previous year. Although 53% of the Class of 2021 did submit a FAFSA, this is 102,000 fewer students than the previous year. A large percentage of students who didn’t submit a FAFSA are those who need financial assistance the most — minorities and students from low income households.
In 2021, highly selective colleges received record numbers of applications and have filled their freshmen classes with a bumper crop of top students. In contrast, the results for many of the less competitive colleges portend a rough road ahead for them. This is especially true for the private, state, and community colleges that were in fiscal crisis even before the nearly ruinous enrollment declines of 2020 brought about by the pandemic.
This blog introduced the FAFSA to its readers in a recent post. It’s the form that you’ll submit to apply for student financial aid from the Federal government. It also makes you eligible for financial aid from state governments, colleges that you apply to, and numerous private entities that offer grants, scholarships, and loans to students.
The FAFSA is free and easy to complete. It’s a virtual necessity for college applicants and their parents to submit a FAFSA. What perplexes college admissions and financing specialists is why so many families seeking to fund their child’s education shun the FAFSA process.
Inquire at your high school guidance office if you seek a knowledgeable person to assist you with the FAFSA. There are usually volunteers who can help. There are also online and print guides that will guide you. Families that complete the form without assistance will find that, although it may sound intimidating, the FAFSA process is quite simple. It takes only about one hour to complete after you’ve gathered the necessary information. The 2021–22 FAFSA on the Web Worksheet is an excellent government resource that previews the questions that students and parents will be asked on the FAFSA and offers advice on answering them.
How to Get Started
The FAFSA form is available on October 1 every year for the following academic year’s college admissions cycle. You’re advised to complete the form and submit it as soon as possible on or after October 1 to get a jump on your peers for the first-come, first-served merit scholarships that are available through the FAFSA.
You can use the following web address to get to the right form: fsaid.ed.gov. This is the website you’ll use to open your FAFSA account to obtain your FSA ID, complete the form, and submit it to the U.S. Department of Education. Students who are currently high school juniors and are planning to apply to colleges in the 2022-23 academic year can obtain an FSA ID from October 1, 2021, until July 1, 2022.
Your first task will be to set up your FSA ID with a username and password. All you’ll need is your social security number, either your email address or mobile phone number, and your home address. If you’re an independent student, you’re the only person who needs an FSA ID. If you’re a dependent student, one of your parents will also need an FSA ID. FSA ID’s permit you to complete, sign, and submit your FAFSA and your Master Promissory Note, apply for repayment plans, complete loan counseling, and use the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Help Tool.
Information You’ll Need
The FAFSA asks for information about you and your financial condition. Depending upon your circumstances, you’ll need the following information to fill out the form:
- Your Social Security number,
- The Social Security number of one of your parents if you’re a dependent student,
- Your driver’s license number (if you have one),
- Your Alien Registration number if you are not a U.S. citizen,
- Men between the ages of 18 and 25 will be asked if they are registered with the Selective Service System (SSS). If not, the SSS will register you. The SSS telephone number is (847) 688-6888 for information regarding exemptions or you can visit the SSS website at sss.gov.
- Federal tax information for you and your spouse if you’re married and for you and your parents if you’re a dependent student (the 2022–23 FAFSA will ask for 2020 tax returns),
- Records of untaxed income such as child support received, interest income, and veteran’s benefits received by you (and by your parents if you’re a dependent student), and
- An accounting of your cash such as bank savings and checking account balances, investments including stocks, bonds, and real estate other than the home in which you live, and business and farm assets.
Using the Federal School Code Search feature, you need to designate at least one college to receive your FAFSA report. You may list up to ten schools. These colleges will use your FAFSA information to determine the types and amounts of aid you’re eligible to receive from them. You can add additional colleges to your FAFSA record at a later point.
The FAFSA form asks questions that determine whether you’re a dependent or independent student. If you’re a dependent student, you must report parent information as well as your own on your form. The studentaid.gov website can help you understand who counts as your parent, what to do if you don’t live with your parents, and what to do if you don’t have access to your parent’s financial information.
Providing Financial Information
The Internal Revenue Service Data Retrieval Tool (IRS DRT) automatically transfers tax information onto the FAFSA from the IRS. You’re advised the accept the option to use this tool because it’s accurate and fast. Below is an overview of how the IRS DRT process works:
- The IRS DRT takes you to the IRS website where you’ll provide your name, Social Security number and other information exactly as you did on your tax return,
- You’ll be referred to a web page that indicates whether your tax information is available for transfer. If so, you can opt to import it into your FAFSA, and
- If you import your information into the FAFSA, your tax information won’t be displayed on the form. Instead, you’ll see “Transferred from the IRS” in the appropriate field.
Signing and Submitting the FAFSA
You and, if you’re a dependent student, one of your parents need to sign the application. Then you can complete the FAFSA application process by submitting the form. When you receive a confirmation by email or text, you’ll know you’ve been successful in filing your FAFSA.
There are states that cooperate with the U.S. Department of Education to allow you to transfer your FAFSA information directly into your state student financial aid form. When filling out the FAFSA, you’ll have the option to apply for state financial aid with the same data that’s on your FAFSA if you live in one of these states. If you’re presented with a link from your FAFSA confirmation page to your state financial aid form, select it. The link will appear only on the confirmation page within the FAFSA form itself, so be sure to take advantage of it while you’re still working on your FAFSA.
Once you’ve submitted your FAFSA, there are more steps you’ll need to take to receive financial aid. The post-submission process will be covered in the next post on this blog.