Are You Haunted by The Ghosts of FAFSA’s Past?

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.

Are You Familiar With The FAFSA?

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.

 

My Family Situation Has Changed – Do I Need to Update My FAFSA?

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.

Be sure to read your SAR!

What’s a SAR? If you’re not sure, you’d better keep reading!

After you complete your FAFSA, you should receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) from Federal Student Aid.  This document will be sent to the email address you supplied on your FAFSA, usually within a few days after you submit the FAFSA. If you haven’t seen it in your inbox yet, be sure to check your spam or junk mail folders.

The SAR contains all data reported on your FAFSA. Read your SAR carefully to make sure all of your information is correct. Most errors can be fixed through your FAFSA online at FAFSA.gov. If there is an error in a field you can’t access, call the Federal Student Aid hotline at 1.800.4 FED AID (1.800.433.3243), or send your question to FederalStudentAidCustomerService@ed.gov. You should receive an answer to your email within one business day.

Your SAR will also tell you if your FAFSA has been selected for verification. If it has, you’ll be given instructions about what to do next. Supplying the information required for verification is mandatory. You can’t receive federal financial aid until the verification process is complete.

Reading your SAR lets you know what’s going on with your financial aid application before you visit a financial aid office. It can help you prepare for your visit by having any necessary documents with you when you arrive. This will save time and reduce the number of visits you’ll have to make to the financial aid office. That’s a win-win situation for everyone!

Oklahoma’s Promise Deadline

High school  students: Are you counting the days until your school year is over? Of course you are! But don’t let your summer bliss distract you from one very important deadline. Students in the 8th, 9th or 10th grade must submit their Oklahoma’s Promise scholarship applications by June 30, 2015.

Sophomores, June 30 is your final deadline. Any application not submitted by this deadline will be removed from the application system, and you could miss out on thousands of dollars in scholarship funds that do not have to be paid back. Don’t make this costly mistake! Submit your application right away.

To learn more about Oklahoma’s Promise and the qualifications for receiving the scholarship, visit OKPromise.org.

I’m a Parent. Do I Need an FSA ID Too?

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.

Can I Access My FAFSA Without an FSA ID?

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:

  1. Choose “Start a New FAFSA” or “Login” from the home page.
  2. Then, select “Enter your (the student’s) FSA ID,” and click the link to “Create an FSA ID”.
  3. 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.