This year, Texas has added a requirement that families complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) or TAFSA (Texas Application for State Financial Aid) before students can graduate from high school. The goal is to help students decrease the cost of college and ensure that they have the tools they need. For some families, however, the rule can cause some headaches. For example, those families aren’t planning for their children to go to college immediately.
The FAFSA application is long and notoriously complicated. However, with these tips, you can streamline the process of collecting the information you need and filling out your application.
1. Gather the Documents You Need Ahead of Time
In order to fill out the FAFSA form, you’ll need several critical documents and pieces of information. Gather them up ahead of time so that you won’t end up scrambling to find them as you’re trying to fill out the form.
- The applicant’s social security number
- Records of the assets the applicant’s parents have coming in each year
- Both parents’ social security numbers
- The applicant’s driver’s license numbers
- Income information from 2018 (if you’re filling out the 2020-2021 FAFSA)
- Records of any untaxed income, including child support, interest income, etc.
- Records of the assets the applicant has coming in each year, including tax returns
- Information about the schools you’re planning on attending–including any schools you might decide to attend, even if it’s only a small chance
Once you have those documents, you’ll be ready to start the process of filling out your FAFSA.
2. Create Your FAFSA Account
In order to fill out all the information required on the FAFSA, both the student and, if the student is dependent, one parent will need an account. Accounts should only be created by the person who will actually be using the account. The student will need to create his own account and fill in the needed information.
Your FAFSA ID can be used for a number of purposes: filling out your FAFSA electronically, of course, but also signing and accepting loans and other electronic documents. It will also allow you to access the myStudentAid mobile app. This helps you track the progress of your loan information or other financial aid.
3. Make Sure You Create a Save Key
As you start filling out your application, it’s important to create a save key: a password you can use to access the document if you need to save it and come back to it later. A save key will also make it possible for a child to allow his or her parents to access the FAFSA and provide information for them.
4. Know Your Dependency Status
The FAFSA form will ask a series of questions that will help determine whether or not you count as a dependent for the purposes of filling out that form. If you’re a dependent student, your parent’s information will be required in order to fill out those forms. Independent students are those:
- Over the age of 24 by January 1 of the school year for which they’re applying for financial aid
- Are currently serving in the US military, or are you a veteran
- Have children who receive half or more of their support from the individual
- Have been in the foster care system after the age of thirteen or who has been made a ward of the court
- Are emancipated
- Are an unaccompanied youth who is homeless or self-supporting
- Have lost both parents
Learn More About the FAFSA
Since these simple questions can make a big difference in the FAFSA–most notably, in how you must report parental income on the form–it’s important to determine ahead of time whether you are a dependent or independent student before filling out the form.
Once you’ve answered those critical questions, it’s time to start filling out those vital forms. Don’t let it become unnecessarily stressful! The blue and white question mark icon contained on each question will answer any questions you might have about specific pieces of information and help streamline your application.
Are you looking for a school where your student can prepare for college more effectively, especially if your student has struggled with learning loss due to the pandemic? Contact us for more information about our learning environment.