Monson Savings Shares Tips for Filling Out the FAFSA Form
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is an application for financial aid made up of scholarships and grants that the government awards to students based on their needs.
The average amount awarded is about $3,900. Not bad for about a half-hour of work, right? If you’re getting ready to fill out the FAFSA, follow these tips to make it quick, painless, and worth your time.
Get Your Documents Together
The FAFSA application requires you to prove your family’s financial situation, so make sure you have all of the documents you need before you start the application. Here’s what you should have on hand:
- Your social security number and your parents’.
- A Federal Student Aid Identification Number (FSA ID). This is the number that you’ll use throughout the application process. You can get one here.
- Your driver’s license or another form of government-issued ID.
- Your and your parents' tax return. For example: for the 2021-2022 FAFSA you would need to submit 2019 tax returns and for the 2022-2023 FAFSA, you would need to submit 2020 tax returns. You only need to include your parent’s tax returns if you are younger than 24. Always check studentaid.gov to confirm tax return requirements.
- Bank account statements and any other asset records.
- Records of untaxed income such as child support, disability benefits, and health savings accounts.
- The code for each school you want to apply to. You can find them here.
Filling Out and Submitting the Application
Now you’re ready to start filling out the FAFSA application. You only need to fill it out once, and then using school codes you can submit the application to the all of the schools you want to apply to. You can apply to up to 10 schools through the FAFSA website. It’s free and your future eligibility for financial aid is tied to your application. You can send an application to a school that hasn’t accepted you yet. If you’re not accepted, they’ll just disregard your application.
Fill out the FAFSA even if you don’t think you qualify. Your eligibility doesn’t just boil down to how much you make, but how much your parents make, how much you have in savings, and how much your family would be expected to contribute to your education. Even if your parents make six figures, you won’t be automatically disqualified from getting aid. Your FAFSA can also be the key to low-cost student loans. If you don’t qualify for a grant or a grant doesn’t cover the full cost you need, your school can use your FAFSA to help you find low-interest federal loan options.
When filling out the FAFSA, don’t leave spaces blank. Blank spaces can lead to processing delays. Fill out as much as you can, use zeroes or choose “Not Applicable” to fill in fields that don’t apply to you.
Advice for filling out the FAFSA: Do it! Lots of grant money goes unclaimed every year. You have nothing to lose by applying.
Increase Your Eligibility
Once you send your application off to your chosen schools, they’ll use a formula to determine if you’re eligible and how much you’ll be awarded. Each school determines the cost of tuition, books, room, and board, which is called cost of attendance (COA). The school then uses your FAFSA to compare that COA against how much your family can contribute to your COA, which is called the expected family contribution (EFC). A standard formula is applied to bridge the gap between EFC and COA, awarding you grants or scholarships to make college more affordable.
If you really want to increase your eligibility, here are some tips to make sure you’re getting the most aid possible:
- Lower the amount of money in your savings account. If you’ve been saving for college since you were 7, that is excellent! Ask your parents to help you transfer that money into a 529 plan rather than keeping it in your savings. The FAFSA calculation assumes that 20 percent of a student’s assets should be used toward school, but for parents, it’s only up to 5.64 percent. By putting your college savings into a parent-controlled 529 plan, it’ll be assessed at the lower rate.
- Use what you have now. If you have a chunk of savings for college, plan to use it up on tuition and books during your freshman year. “Spending down” your savings to start is a smart way to use your college savings because it could mean a better chance at scholarships and grants after freshman year.
- Add supplementary levels. Does your financial situation look better on paper than in real life? If you’ve recently experienced a job loss, if your parents have lost a large asset, or if your circumstances have changed, attach a supplementary letter to your application. Colleges run the numbers, but many consider more than just the basic application when determining eligibility. You can explain your situation in a letter to better to increase your chances of receiving financial aid.
- Appeal. If you received a decision you don’t think is fair, negotiate! Contact your school’s financial aid office and ask for the steps to appeal. Be polite and grateful for what you received, but definitely try and clarify your financial position to negotiate for a better scholarship or more grants.
The FAFSA makes college more affordable for millions of students every year. Every school has grants and scholarships available to students. By taking your time and filling out the FAFSA before you start school, it could mean less in student loans and more in your bank account. Monson Savings Bank wishes you the best of luck in your college application process!