Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA application) as soon as possible is important. Many colleges and universities have financial aid deadlines that fall before the end of the academic year. In addition, some states and colleges have limited funds available for financial aid, so submitting the FAFSA early increases the chances of receiving aid. Additionally, if you plan to enroll in college in the fall, the FAFSA application deadline is typically before the end of January or beginning of February.
Things to keep in mind
When submitting the FAFSA application in late January or early February, it’s important to keep the following things in mind:
Use your most recent tax information: You will need to provide your (and your parents’ if you’re a dependent student) income tax returns, W-2s, and other financial documents.
Check the deadline: The deadline to submit the FAFSA application varies by state, school, and type of aid, so it’s important to check the deadline for the school(s) you plan to apply to, as well as any state deadlines.
Double-check all the information: Make sure that all the information you’ve entered on the form is accurate and complete before submitting it to avoid any delays.
Gather all required documentation: Make sure you have all the required documentation, such as your Social Security number and your parents’ information if you are a dependent student, before submitting the form. For parental information, you will need:
- Social Security Number (SSN)
- Date of birth
- Marital status
- Federal income tax information or tax returns for the previous year
- Assets (e.g. savings accounts, investments, business ownership)
- Untaxed income and benefits (e.g. child support received, workers’ compensation)
- Information on any federal tax exemptions or tax credits they claimed
Submit the FAFSA application as soon as possible: The FAFSA application is used not only to apply for federal aid, but also for many state and college aid programs. It’s important to submit the FAFSA as soon as possible, even if you’re unsure about applying for aid.
Sign the FAFSA application electronically: You can sign the FAFSA application electronically using your FSA ID, which will speed up the processing time.
Keep a copy of the confirmation page: Keep a copy of the confirmation page for your records, and follow up with your school’s financial aid office to ensure that they received your FAFSA application and that there are no issues or missing information.
If needed, seek help
Lastly, if you’re experiencing any difficulty with the process, you can reach out to your current or prospective school’s financial aid office for help. They will appreciate the proactive gesture and if you are a rising freshman, it is a good connection to make early.