The conclusion of Thanksgiving last week, as always, was marked by a barrage of holiday themed commercials, signifying via your television set that it officially ‘tis the season to be jolly. If you’re a college student eagerly awaiting the end of Fall classes and the opportunity to sloth it for a whole month, the term “the most wonderful time of the year” never rang truer. However, take care not to lose sight of all of your responsibilities. January 1 marks the beginning of the “college-aid season,” and with it comes the ubiquitous FAFSA (Free Application For Student Aid). If you are looking to receive any type of aid, it is important that you file as soon as possible.
No one wants to spend the first day of the New Year filling out 6 pages worth of financial information. In fact, Congress passed legislation in August that aims to drastically minimize the currently daunting FAFSA form by 4 pages. Unfortunately for current college students, you are going to have to stick it out for one more year as this two-page form will not be offered until 2010.
One of the best ways to make the task tolerable is to be prepared; before January 1, gather all of the documents you will need in order to fill out the FAFSA. These include:
1. Social Security Number,
2. Driver’s License (if you have one),
3. 2007 W-2 Forms,
4. You and Your Spouse’s (if applicable) 2007 Federal Income Tax Return (IRS 1040, 1040A, 1040 EX, Foreign Tax Return or Tax Return for Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the US Virgin Islands, the Federal States of Micronesia or Palau),
5. Parents’ 2007 Federal Tax Return (if dependent),
6. Current bank statements,
7. Current business and investment mortgage information, business and farm records, stock, bond and other investment records,
9) 2007 Untaxed income record (social security, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families [TANF]. Welfare, veterans benefits records), and
10) Alien registration or permanent resident card (if not a U.S. citizen)
Once you’ve gathered these materials, you can print out a “FAFSA on the Web Worksheet” from fafsa.ed.gov. Filling out this worksheet by hand preliminarily will allow you to simply transfer the information onto the online application when it becomes available. After you fill this worksheet out, you can sign the FAFSA electronically using a PIN (Personal Identification Number) or by mailing in the signature page of the document. Your aid eligibility will be made available immediately once you have submitted your application.
Depending on your Expected Family Contribution (calculated using the Federal Methodology), you may be eligible for Pell grants, student loans and college work-study programs under federal aid. Many schools and states also use the information from the FAFSA to calculate any aid they may award you. Thus, it is crucial that you fill out the form as early as possible. The deadline for filing is June 30th but make sure you check your state deadlines as some are earlier than the federal cut off date.
Getting a head start on the FAFSA process will allow you to avoid any procrastination-induced stress. Visit the FAFSA web site at www.fafsa.ed.gov to find out more information including whether or not you may be able to apply as an independent and other FAQ’s.