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3 Simple Tips for Completing Your FAFSA

Laura Cobb October 20, 2018

college costs-1-341025-edited-364970-editedWhat were you doing on October 1, 2018? Were you eating a yummy cookie in celebration of National Homemade Cookies Day like I was? If not, it isn’t too late to grab your favorite kind (mine is Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip) and enjoy!

It is also not too late to begin filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)! It just so happens that October 1st was also the day that the 2019-2020 FAFSA officially went live. Whether you’ve already started completing the FAFSA or have not yet begun, here are three tips to make the process as quick and painless as possible.

Tip #1: Be committed! Commit to completing the FAFSA as soon as possible.

It’s generally a good idea for all students to complete the FAFSA, even if they don’t think they’ll be eligible for aid due to financial need. Here's why: some colleges require applicants to submit the FAFSA to receive any type of aid (including scholarships based on merit). For this reason, most families should plan on filling out the FAFSA. Also, they should commit to completing it in a timely manner. A good goal would be to have it submitted before college application deadlines, as doing so allows students to be considered for the most aid possible.

Tip #2: Be prepared! Have everything ready to go before beginning the FAFSA.

The first thing you’ll need is an FSA ID. This is how your identity is confirmed and is also the way you’ll electronically sign your FAFSA. Both the student and one parent will need to create an FSA ID. It sometimes takes as many as three days to activate, so it’s a good idea to create one as soon as possible.

Another item you’ll want to have prepared is the list of colleges to which you’re applying. Even if there’s only a small chance you’ll be applying to a particular school, go ahead and list that school on the form. It won’t hurt you if you do list a school; but if you leave one off, you might end up missing an important deadline for that school.

Finally, you’ll need your financial information! This includes information about your taxed income (from your 2017 federal tax return), information about your untaxed income (such as child support or veteran’s benefits), and information about your current assets (such as money in bank accounts, investments, and real estate).

Tip #3: Be smart! Use the FAFSA resources that are available to you.

One very helpful resource is called the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (The IRS DRT). This tool allows you to import your tax information from the IRS directly into the FAFSA form. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it’s accurate!

Another resource is the new FAFSA mobile app. In August, the Beta version of the app was released; but as of October 1st, the app was updated to include the 2019-2020 FAFSA. The official name of the app is myStudentAid, and it can be found in both the Apple App Store and Google Play. The great thing is that if you begin filling out the FAFSA on the mobile app, but then realize you prefer the computer version, you will not need to start all over again. Using your FSA ID, you can log in on your computer and pick up right where you left off. A final word about the myStudentAid app…IT INCLUDES THE IRS DATA RETRIEVAL TOOL! (can you sense my excitement?). With all the features of the computer version, the mobile app is definitely worth checking out.

Finally, there is a ton of resource information available on the Federal Student Aid website. If you have special circumstances or just need to trouble-shoot a problem with the application, this is the place to go!

Now, to review our three tips for completing the FAFSA as quick and painlessly as possible: 1) we’re going to be committed to completing the FAFSA as soon as possible, 2) we’re going to be prepared with everything we need before sitting down to fill it out, and 3) we’re going to be smart by using the resources that we have available to us. Then, when we’re all done, we’re going to reward ourselves with a delicious homemade cookie! Yummm!

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Tagged: college admission, college applications, FAFSA, financial aid, FSA ID

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