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The FAFSA

New Year Means New Application

Though it is a holiday, New Year’s Day is also a day to get down to business. While you’re starting your New Year’s resolutions, college students and college-bound high school students should also start filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The Department of Education starts accepting the FAFSA") on January 1 of each year. State application deadlines fall soon after, some as early as February. So while you might not start classes until August or September, start applying for financial aid as soon as the FAFSA is available each year.

What You Need

To complete the FAFSA, you will need the following (if available):

  • Your social security number
  • A driver’s license if you have one
  • Bank statements and records of investments
  • Records of untaxed income
  • Your most recent tax return and W2s (2014 for the 2015-2016 FAFSA)
  • All of the above for your parents if you are considered a dependent
  • A PIN to sign electronically (go to pin.ed.gov)

If you’ve applied before, fill out a renewal FAFSA, which allows you to skip a few questions. You will still need your tax, savings, and investment information for the new year. Your tax information must be from the previous calendar year to file. The Department of Education relies heavily on tax information to determine a person’s ability to pay for college. If your financial situation changes drastically talk to your school’s financial aid office to make changes to your student financial aid.

If you do not have your tax information ready for y our application, which is often the case if you’re applying in January or February, use a previous year’s tax return to estimate. This way you have a FAFSA on file before priority deadlines have passed. Once you’ve done your taxes for the current year, make the corrections online. This is the best way to finish you application early and maximize your state and campus-basedfinancial aid packages.

Why You Should Apply

Completing the FAFSA is an important step in funding your education 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. Always apply for need-based scholarships and grants. At the minimum, you will qualify for Stafford Loans, low-interest federal student loans.

Where To Get More Information

TVisit fafsa.ed.gov and check out "Before Beginning a FAFSA" to get prepared. There you will find information about application deadlines, required documents, applying for a PIN, and the application process. We also offer financial aid resources at Scholarships.com. For further reading, check out our "Resources" section.

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Last Reviewed: September 2019