By Nicole Benford, Assistant Director of Niner Finances
As we enter into this fall season, it's important to remember that leaves fall from trees, money does not grow or fall from trees! As a result, it's important not to take the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (aka FAFSA) submission window, which opened on October 1st, for granted.
The FAFSA allows students to apply for Federal Financial Aid in the form of Grants, Work Study and Student Loans, however, many states and schools use it to assess needs based scholarships and awards to offer students. Student loans have to be paid back but the FAFSA can also qualify you for FREE money.
To help you prepare you for submitting your FAFSA, here are some things that you should do as you prepare to complete the FAFSA.
- Do complete the FAFSA! Completing the FAFSA cannot hurt you, it can only help you…schools will not look at your application and decide that you can afford to pay more and so assign an arbitrarily higher tuition number to you. Your tuition and fees will be the same whether you complete the form or not, but whether you have assistance with paying that bill is impacted by not only whether you complete the form but also how long you wait to submit it as some aid is first come first served.
- Do request your FSA ID as soon as possible. If this is your first time completing the FAFSA, you will need to request a FSA ID. It could take a few days for you to receive your ID. It is better to request this in advance of you actually planning to complete the FAFSA.
- Do use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT). This tool imports data from you or your parents tax return and prefills it into the appropriate FAFSA fields. This will help to minimize errors. You will need information from your parents or guardians if you are a dependent student. Let them know ahead of time that you will be requesting their social security numbers.
- Do report parent information if required. Even if you are fully taking care of yourself…you pay your own taxes, live on your own, no one claims you on their tax return…you may still be considered a dependent student for the purpose of the FAFSA. Make sure you take the time to confirm whether you are considered a dependent of a parent or legal guardian by answering questions located here: https://studentaid.gov/sites/default/files/dependency-status.png
- Do Sign the FAFSA Form. A common mistake is for students to complete the entire form but forget to sign the form and submit it. Don’t put all of the effort and then drop the ball before you reach the end zone. Saving the FAFSA is not the same as submitting the FAFSA. Be sure when you are done that you fully submit the FAFSA.
Finally, after you receive your financial aid package, take advantage of resources available on campus to discuss additional options that you need to consider to help fund your education - apply for scholarships - Schedule time with Niner Central to make sure you are aware of all of all the resources available to you. Additionally you should be scheduling time with Niner Finances to help you budget for any out of pocket expenses, create a financial plan to graduation, and make sure that you are intentional about your financial wellness.