FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)

FAFSA Website: fafsa.ed.gov

FAFSA PIN WEBSITE: Set up your and  your parents PIN numbers AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.  You can complete the FAFSA without one.  Click here to start the process.

1. What is the FAFSA?

The FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This is the application form that is required before you can receive any form of federal financial aid. You can file on the Web electronically. The FAFSA asks several questions about family finances and your list your college choices.

2. When should I apply for aid?

You should complete the FAFSA as soon as possible after January 1 to be considered for the next academic year. The form should be submitted before March 2 to be considered for Cal Grant and many university programs. Some schools have earlier deadlines so be sure to check with the campus financial aid office for campus-specific deadlines.

Simple advice: Find out every college’s FAFSA deadline and meet the EARLIEST deadline…then you have met them all! If deadlines have already passed, FILE YOUR FAFSA ANYWAY! A large portion of the money is available for many months after the first early deadlines. You probably won’t get the best aid, but you might still qualify for federal grant and loan.

3. Do I need to complete my income tax return before I complete the FAFSA?

No, you do not need to have completed your income tax return. While it is recommended that you complete your tax return prior to filling out your FAFSA, it is not essential. It is far more important that you meet the March 2 application deadline than it is that you complete tax returns first. You can fill out the FAFSA using estimated information from your final year end pay stub(s); however, take care in estimating your figures. Any large discrepancies between your FAFSA and your tax return may have a large impact on any preliminary financial aid award you receive.

4. What if I don’t have my W-2s yet and my parents’ tax returns aren’t completed?

Do not wait to file your FAFSA. It is very important to file early and to meet deadlines to get the best funding. Use pay stubs, last year’s income records, checking account records or whatever you and your parents have to make your very best estimate and get the FAFSA in the mail (or sent through the Web). If you use estimated information, your financial aid eligibility may be revised once you update your income information.

5. How do I apply for a grant? For loans? For student employment?

By completing the FAFSA and supplying any other required documents to the financial aid office, you are considered for federal grant, work and loan programs, as well as most state and private programs. You don’t have to file separate applications for each program.

In order to be considered for Cal Grant, as well as for some other funds, you will need to file your FAFSA by March 2 (prior to the year when you want to go to school) and you also have to file a “Cal Grant GPA Verification” by that deadline. Ask for help at any high school or college financial aid office.

Some programs may require additional paperwork. Be sure to complete all forms sent to you by the financial aid office.

6. I filled out the FAFSA. How and when do I find out the results?

Approximately four weeks after submitting your FAFSA, you should receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) from the FAFSA processor. The SAR will list all of the information you put on the FAFSA. You should review the information listed on the form to make sure it is correct and that all of the colleges you are interested in attending are listed on the form. If any information is not correct, you must return the form with the correct information. This information also is forwarded to the schools you listed on the FAFSA. Once the schools receive the information and verify it with any additional documents you submitted at their request, they will notify you of your aid eligibility.

7. I completed the FAFSA over a month ago, but I haven’t received anything back. What should I do?

If you haven’t received a Student Aid Report within 5 weeks of filing your FAFSA, you can call the federal processor at 800-4-FED-AID. You will need to provide your Social Security number and date of birth as verification. You also can write to:

Application and Pell Processing Systems Division
U.S. Department of Education
600 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20202-5453

8. My parents don’t support me. Do I still need to include their information on the FAFSA?

If you don’t meet one of the federal criteria to be an independent student, you will have to supply your parents’ information on the financial aid application. If extremely adverse family circumstances prevent you from supplying your parents’ information, contact the financial aid office to discuss your situation. Read the FAFSA instructions to help guide you.

9. What is untaxed income for financial aid purposes?

The FAFSA asks for specific types of untaxed income. Untaxed income is income received that is not subject to U.S. income taxes, but is required to be reported on the FAFSA. It includes Social Security and veterans benefits, welfare, child support, pensions, military subsistence allowances, IRAs, KEOGHs, TSAs, etc. You should check the untaxed income worksheet in the FAFSA application to determine if there is untaxed income that needs to be reported. Read the FAFSA instructions to help guide you.

10. Should I keep a copy of the FAFSA?

Yes. It would be a good idea to start a file folder or binder of all of the important papers related to your college admission and financial aid applications. Keep copies of your completed applications and FAFSA, your Student Aid Report, a copy of any additional documents that you might have supplied to the college financial aid office, and any correspondence with the federal processor, the campus financial aid office, or other financial aid or scholarship agencies.