Filling out the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is one of the most important steps you will take as a parent to secure your child’s future and obtain college financial aid. The form takes a maximum of an hour to complete, provided you have all your documents handy.
Each year, students leave millions of dollars in aid on the table, just because they don’t fill out the form. FAFSA is the gateway to more than $150 billion in federal student loans, work-study funds, and college grants and scholarships. That’s serious money!
Importantly, there are no income limits for the FAFSA. So, it’s worth filling out the form and grabbing the benefits it offers to pay for college.
Every year students leave billions of dollars on the table
Every year, more than 90% of high school seniors complete the FAFSA as part of their College Admissions journey. Students who don’t fill out the FAFSA miss a golden opportunity.
Perhaps the best-known reason to complete the FAFSA is that it provides access to Federal Pell grants, which can provide a student up to $6,495 per year, mostly to families with annual incomes under $30,000.
Should You Fill Out the FAFSA Form?
Here are four reasons why you should complete the FAFSA right now, regardless of income:
- Information submitted on the FAFSA can qualify students for other, non-federal grants – from state governments, private entities, and colleges themselves – that are also available to students from higher-income households.
- Several states like Texas, Illinois, Alabama, California, and Colorado have FAFSA completion laws that require every student to complete the FAFSA as a prerequisite for High School graduation.
- Some Colleges and Universities like UVA, NYU, Boston University, and Denison require applicants to fill out the FAFSA for non-need-based aid like merit-based scholarships.
- Completing the FAFSA is free so you have nothing to lose!
Thus, we recommend that students from higher-income families also fill out the FAFSA.
Filling out the FAFSA is FREE and QUICK
If you haven’t filled out the FAFSA because you imagine it takes days to complete, there’s good news! The FAFSA usually takes about an hour to fill out. All you need is to collect your financial documents, social security number, and a couple of years’ tax records.
Once you have all the documents ready, completing FAFSA can be less than 30 minutes away, and those 30 minutes could translate into thousands of dollars.
The Department of Education recently made the FAFSA application process simpler and more convenient. First, the FAFSA filing period is now three months longer than it used to be, from October 1 to June 30, so you have plenty of time. However, each school has its own financial aid deadline, which can be early as December 1.
So, while it might be tempting to focus on the FAFSA’s June 30 deadline, thinking there’s no rush, it is highly recommended that you fill out the form as soon as you can to ensure that you don’t miss out on any aid.
To make filling out the form even easier, the Department of Education has also launched a mobile-friendly version of fafsa.gov. Since the majority number of people are mobile-only internet users, it’s now more convenient for everyone to complete the FAFSA using their smartphones.
Not sure about the list of documents you need for FAFSA?
Perhaps, the biggest hassle in filling out the form is collecting documentation. Here is the list of documents you need to file the FAFSA. You might already have most of them handy.
- Social security number
- Driver’s license number or state ID
- If you are a non-U.S. citizen, you need an alien registration number
- Tax information
- Records of any untaxed income
- Bank statements
- List of schools your child wants to attend
IRS Data Retrieval Tool:
You can save time by using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, which automatically transfers your tax information to the online FAFSA application. You can also use this feature on the mobile application.
To use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, you must first have filed your income tax returns from the previous year electronically, at least three weeks before submitting the FAFSA. If the tax returns were filed through email, then allow 11 weeks before using the Data Retrieval Tool.
Lastly, remember that you need to file the FAFSA every academic year. Eligibility for student aid does not carry over from one academic year to the next. Variables such as your family’s income level in a given year and the number of family members simultaneously enrolled in college will affect the amount of aid a student is eligible to receive. (To save time, check the FAFSA renewal button, which will populate the form using information reported on previously submitted documents.)
For more information about filling out the FAFSA read these posts:
And remember, if you need any advice or assistance on your FAFSA form, we are here to help. HelloCollege offers expert consulting in financial aid and college enrollment to students just like you. Reach out today to learn how we can help make your enrollment and application process easier!