The FAFSA form is the main application that colleges in the United States use to determine financial aid. A few simple tips can help those filing the form any time.
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the main application that colleges and universities across the United States use to determine a student’s financial aid package. Institutions use data provided on this form to determine how much aid a student is eligible for, and also which kinds of aid a student can receive.
However, the form can be quite complicated and even intimidating for those who aren’t quite sure how to complete the application. There are some tips and things to remember when completing the FAFSA, no matter how many times a student or parent has completed the form before.
The Department of Education Personal Identification Number (PIN)
According to the United States Department of Education, the PIN is a four-digit number that is used to identify a student, parent, or spouse of a student in addition to the applicant’s name, date of birth, and Social Security number.
To apply for a PIN, both students and parents, if the student is a dependent, must apply for individual numbers. This can be done while completing the FAFSA or by visiting the PIN website.
The PIN is used to sign electronic documents such as the FAFSA and is also used to repay Stafford and federal loans instead of mailing forms in with a written signature.
Basic Information on the FAFSA
According to FastWeb, a financial aid website, there are some basic tips for completing the FAFSA. The main advice is to ensure that basic information on the form is correct.
When completing the form, make sure that applicants provide their full legal name, address, and other information such as date of birth and Social Security number. This information is used to verify an applicant’s identity with the federal government and to make sure that an applicant is eligible for financial aid.
Also, make sure that the wording of the FAFSA is understood. The use of “you” and “your” on the document refers to the student, not the parents or spouse of the student. Also, be sure to include the student who is filing the FAFSA in the number of household members attending college for the upcoming award year.
Reporting Income on the FAFSA
Before reporting financial data, a student must determine if he or she is a dependent or independent student. If a student receives more than fifty percent of their livelihood, including shelter, food, educational costs, gifts, and other support such as car payments, from their parents or guardians then the student is considered a dependent student. If a student receives less than fifty percent of their livelihood from their parents or guardians, is twenty-three years of age or older, is married, or is an emancipated youth, then the student is considered an independent filer.
If a student’s biological parents or legal guardians are still married, then both parents / guardians must report their assets on the FAFSA.
If a student’s parents are divorced or separated, then the parent with whom the student has resided for the last twelve consecutive months is the one responsible for completing the FAFSA. If a student’s parents have divorced and then remarried, then the responsible parent and the new spouse must both claim all income on the FAFSA, regardless of any prenuptial agreements.
Claiming Dependents on the FAFSA
Most first time college students will not have to claim any dependents on the FAFSA.
However, if the student has a child that is supported primarily by someone else, such as a grandparent or other relative, the child cannot be considered a dependent. The same criteria used in determining whether or not a student is a dependent applies for children of students.
If a student is expecting to have a child during the upcoming award year, which runs from July 1 through June 30, then the student can claim the child even if the child has not been born or adoption processes have not been finalized.
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) can be a complicated form to complete, but paying attention to the form’s structure and understanding the data that must be provided on the form can greatly help a student maximize their potential for financial aid for college.