Skip Navigation LinksHome > Financial Aid > Federal Aid > The FAFSA: New Year Means New Application

The FAFSA: New Year Means New Application

The FAFSA: New Year Means New Application

Though it’s a day off from school and work, New Year’s Day is also a day to get down to business. While you’re starting in on your New Year’s resolutions, opening up a new calendar, and packing up the holiday decorations, there’s one more thing that college students and college-bound high school students should do each January. The Department of Education starts accepting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (more commonly known as "FAFSA") on January 1 each year. State application deadlines fall soon after—as early as February in some cases. So while you might not start classes until August or September, you want to start applying for financial aid as soon as the FAFSA is available each year.

What You Need

In order to complete a FAFSA, you will need the following:

  • your social security number
  • a driver’s license if you have one
  • bank statements and records of investments (if you have any)
  • records of untaxed income (again, if you have any)
  • your most recent tax return and W2s (2012 for the 2013-2014 FAFSA)
  • all of the above for your parents if you are considered a dependent
  • a PIN to sign electronically (go to pin.ed.gov to get one)

If you’ve applied before, you can fill out a renewal FAFSA, which will let you skip a few questions. You will still need your tax, savings, and investment information for the new year, though. You will always need tax information from the previous calendar year to file; it’s the most accurate predictor of ability to pay college, according to the Department of Education. If things changed drastically for your family in the last year, apply for student financial aid with the information you have, and then talk to your school’s financial aid office to make any necessary adjustments.

If you do not have your tax information by the time you’re ready to apply, which is often the case if you’re applying in January or February, use information you have available, such as a previous year’s tax return, to estimate to the best of your ability. That way, you have a FAFSA on file before priority deadlines have passed. Once you’ve done your taxes for the current year, you’ll be able to submit a correction online. While that might seem like more work, it’s the best recipe for maximizing your state and campus-based aid packages.

Why You Should Apply

Completing the FAFSA is an important step in funding your education if you don’t plan on paying for everything out-of-pocket. The FAFSA is used by the Department of Education to determine eligibility for federal student financial aid for college. This aid includes federal grant programs (such as the Pell Grant), federal work-study, and federal student loans. It is also used by states to determine eligibility for their college aid programs, such as state grants. Colleges also use the FAFSA to determine eligibility for the need-based aid programs they administer. Finally, many scholarship opportunities request FAFSA information as part of their application process. Even if you think that you won’t qualify for free money in the form of need-based college scholarships and grants, you should still apply. At the minimum, the vast majority of students qualify for Stafford Loans, low-interest federal student loans that represent one of the best deals in borrowing for school.

Where To Get More Information

Visit fafsa.ed.gov (the official FAFSA application website) and go through the links under "Before Beginning a FAFSA" to get started, especially if this is your first time filing. You’ll find information about application deadlines, required documents, applying for a PIN, and other things you need to know about to begin. We offer many of the same financial aid resources at Scholarships.com. For further reading, check out our "Resources" section.

Latest College & Financial Aid News

College President Bans School-Funded Travel to Indiana

by Suada Kolovic

In response to Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act, San Francisco State University President Leslie E. Wong has banned all school-funded travel to the state. The controversial legislation, which was signed into law by Republican Governor Mike Pence last week, is meant to protect religious liberty but many have expressed concern that the law will become a tool of [...]

SOTW: National WWII Museum Student Essay Contest

by Suada Kolovic

This year, The National WWII Museum asks: How do you define a hero? The flag-raising on Mount Suribachi at Iwo Jima on February 23, 1945 is one of the most famous moments of WWII. The six men who helped to raise the flag are often referred to as heroes. Out of the six men who raised the flag that day, only three survived until the end of the war. One of the surviving men, Cpl. Ira [...]

Surprise Gift from UNC’s Beloved Coach Dean Smith

by Suada Kolovic

In a touching posthumous act of gratitude, beloved University of North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith's trust has mailed out $200 checks to each of the nearly 200 lettermen he coached with the message, "Enjoy dinner out compliments of Coach Dean Smith." The letter sent read, in part: Each player was important and special to Coach Smith and when he prepared his estate plan, [...]

Follow Us:

facebook twitter rss feed