The What, Who, and Why of FAFSA

fafsaFAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid   Every college bound student (and parents of the student) should fill out the FAFSA even if the student does not plan to receive Federal aid. Colleges use the information provided by the FAFSA to help determine private scholarship amounts.   Quoted from the FAFSA website:  Federal Student Aid is responsible for managing the student financial assistance programs authorized under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965. These programs provide grants, loans, and work-study funds to students attending college or career school.

FAFSA now allows you to fill out your senior student’s information in October (previously this was done in January of the senior year).  When filling out the FAFSA be sure you go to the official site. There are sites that look like authentic FAFSA sites, but after one fills out all of the information a request for payment pops up.  The FAFSA is free so be sure you go to the official site.   In order to fill out the FAFSA one must first create a FAFSA ID.  In the past a PIN was required, now it is an ID.  The FAFSA ID can be requested at any time.  Here are the answers to frequently asked questions about the FAFSA.

The FAFSA has recently changed and the changes are noted on this document.   One of the changes is related to reporting tax information on the form.  One of the important changes has to do with the tax information reported.  From the site:  Beginning with the 2017–18 FAFSA, applicants will provide income information from one tax year earlier—the “prior-prior” year. This means that the 2017–18 FAFSA will collect 2015 income information. As a result of this change, more students and families will be able to complete their FAFSA using income information imported electronically from the IRS, using our IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT), rather than submitting applications with income estimates that may need correcting, or worse, waiting until the previous year’s tax return has been filed. This is important because in many cases money is awarded on a first-come-first-serve basis.  The earlier the FAFSA is filled out and the tax information is provided, the better your student’s chance for scholarships and grants.

Below is a chart from the FAFSA website that shows changes in the dates for submission along with which prior year income and tax information one should use.

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