While it may be true that submitting your FAFSA can make you want to scream, completing the form is now easier than ever. Don’t believe us? Here are some examples.
Paper vs. electronic
Any counselor or teacher who was around to see the original release of the first Halloween movie, will tell you they had to submit their FAFSA on paper. EEK! Imagine having to wait longer than a vampire’s lifespan for your FAFSA to make it to Illinois via snail mail, only to have it returned to you two or three weeks later with a list of errors that need to be corrected before re-mailing the form! Today, the online FAFSA can be processed and corrected in just a few days.
Worksheets vs. built-in formulas
Back in the day, there were additional worksheets that had to be completed by many FAFSA filers (anybody out there remember Worksheets A, B & C?). Those have been eliminated by fine-tuning the financial aid process.
PIN vs. FSA ID
The newest improvement to the FAFSA process is the switch from a four-digit Personal Identification Number (PIN) to the Federal Student Aid Identification (FSA ID) system used to sign the FAFSA electronically. We’re all familiar with user IDs and passwords, and this new method is more secure and equally user-friendly. If you used a PIN on your FAFSA last year, you’ll be given step-by-step instructions for switching over to a new FSA ID when you submit your 2016-17 form. If you’d like to create your new FSA ID before you begin the application, visit fsaid.ed.gov.
The moral of the story here is not to be discouraged by the way things used to be. When it comes to college preparation and FAFSA completion, things have changed for the better. To stay up-to-date on the latest college planning news and tips, follow us on Facebook at facebook.com/UCanGo2.
If you or your child is a senior in high school, now is the time to get familiar with the steps needed to enter college as stress-free as possible.
One step that students and parents seem to worry about is completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Part of the fear stems from parents who completed the FAFSA years ago, when the process was much more complicated, time-consuming and tedious. We’re here to assure you… things have changed for the better! The online FAFSA has made the process quicker, more intuitive and less likely to produce errors that cause delays. So start learning about the FAFSA process NOW and watch our FAFSA video tutorial to learn how to complete the FAFSA in five steps, also available in Spanish.
Don’t wait! This year is going to pass in the blink of an eye. It can’t hurt to get started now.
The FAFSA asks you to provide information about your family and their income. What if something has happened that now makes the data you submitted incorrect? You may need to update your FAFSA if any of the following have changed:
- You got married
- Your parents got divorced
- Your parent or sibling died
- You or your parent lost a job
- Your family incurred major medical expenses
Other changes, such as sending your FAFSA results to a different college or making revisions to your income tax paid, can be easily corrected online at FAFSA.gov. The items mentioned above, however, should be discussed with your financial aid administrator. Additional documentation may be required before certain questions on your FAFSA can be changed.
If you have questions, talk to your school’s financial aid office. They’re your best resource throughout the entire financial aid process.
If your student needs your information for the FAFSA, you’ll need to create an FSA ID separate from your student’s FSA ID. You can create an FSA ID, consisting of a username and password, at FSAID.ed.gov. As a parent, your FSA ID will allow you to electronically retrieve your tax information and sign your student’s FAFSA. If you have more than one child completing the application, you can use the same FSA ID for all applications.
After you’ve created an FSA ID, you can update your information on your student’s FAFSA by choosing the option to “Enter the student’s information” from the FAFSA login page. We recommend you create an FSA ID before accessing your student’s FAFSA to help avoid additional steps in the login process.
To learn more about the FSA ID process visit studentaid.gov/fsaid.
Federal Student Aid (FSA) has officially done away with the PIN system. The fastest and easiest way to create a new FAFSA, or to access an existing application, is to first create an FSA ID consisting of a username and password. We recommend you take this step first to avoid additional steps later.
To create an FSA ID visit FSAID.ed.gov, OR from FAFSA.gov:
- Choose “Start a New FAFSA” or “Login” from the home page.
- Then, select “Enter your (the student’s) FSA ID,” and click the link to “Create an FSA ID”.
- From there, follow the prompts to create a secure username, password and security questions with answers that you’ll remember. For faster processing, be sure to enter your information exactly as it’s registered with the Social Security Administration (SSA).
For more information about the switch from PIN to FSA ID, check out our last post.
Help save a tree… Apply for the FAFSA online!
If you complete and submit your FAFSA online each year, the system will double check your entries against your information from previous years and it will offer you helpful information along the way. However, even with the advantages of online completion, you may find that your FAFSA contains an error, or you may need to update your tax information.
To correct an error or update your FAFSA online, visit FAFSA.gov and enter your login information. Then, on the My FAFSA page, click “Make FAFSA Corrections.” After you’ve finished your corrections, don’t forget to click submit.
Once you resubmit your application and receive a confirmation number, the correction will be processed in 3-5 days. You cannot submit a second correction until the first one is processed and a Student Aid Report (SAR) is generated, so try to make all of your corrections at once to avoid a processing delay.
If you’re concerned about the security of your information online, you’re not alone! Identity theft is a major problem. Fortunately, when it comes to submitting your information through FAFSA.gov, your personal data is as secure as possible.
FAFSA.gov goes to great lengths to protect your information from hackers. Learn more about these security measures and how FAFSA.gov uses your information.
Here are a few steps you should take to help further protect your information:
- Make sure you’re using the domestic version of your web browser. The international versions often have weaker encryption levels.
- Once you’re ready to end your session at FAFSA.gov, clear your browser’s temporary internet files.
- Close your browser entirely when you leave the computer. This eliminates the possibility that someone could take advantage of the computer memory still being used by the browser to try and access your application.
- As with any online account, safeguard your login information. Use a strong password that you are sure to remember and don’t leave passwords written or exposed where someone might be able to find them.
Remember, if you’re safe with your own information, your information is safe with FAFSA.gov!
NEVER pay to complete the FAFSA; the FAFSA is always free. As a matter of fact, that’s what the first F stands for:
Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
If you plan to submit the form online, be sure to file at FAFSA.gov, and avoid sites like FAFSA.com that offer to file the FAFSA for a hefty fee. Always check for the “.gov” to make sure you’re in the right place!
Even if you think you or your parents make too much money to qualify for financial aid, submit the FAFSA anyway. Students are often surprised by the aid they’re awarded.
There’s not a specific income cutoff to qualify for federal financial aid, and many other factors are considered. The only hard and fast rules of eligibility are that you must:
- Be a citizen or eligible noncitizen of the United States.
- Have a valid Social Security Number.
- Have a high school diploma or a GED certificate, or have completed homeschooling.
- Be enrolled in an eligible program as a regular student seeking a degree or certificate.
- Maintain satisfactory academic progress.
- Not owe a refund on a federal student grant or be in default on a federal student loan.
- Register (or already be registered) with the Selective Service System, if you are a male and not currently on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces.
Even if you are not awarded grants, most students qualify for some type of federal student aid. Some schools use the data from your FAFSA to award state or school-specific grants and scholarships, so submitting the application may open more doors than you expect.
On average, it takes less than an hour to fill out the FAFSA online, so why not do it? It could turn out to be well worth your time!