Filling out the FAFSA® is one of the most important things that you’ll do to secure financial aid for college. You should complete the FAFSA® regardless of your financial situation. Whether you receive a hefty amount of financial aid or you find that your family is expected to provide for your college education, this form will give you valuable information to guide your financial choices throughout your college career.
Watch the Deadlines
It’s important to fill out your FAFSA® as early as possible. Students filing out their FAFSA® for the 2020-21 school year can submit their applications as early as October 1, 2019. The sooner you submit your FAFSA®, the better your chances of receiving aid. While your application determines how much assistance you’re eligible for, it doesn’t guarantee that you’ll receive the maximum amount. Many types of aid are offered on a first-come-first-served basis. Later applicants may find some forms of aid exhausted by the time their information is reviewed.
Don’t Skip Steps
You must fill out every field in the FAFSA® application. Don’t leave a question blank even if it doesn’t apply to you. Enter a “0” if you don’t have any information for the field, or write “not applicable” in the space. If you leave blanks on your application, you risk having the entire FAFSA® rejected. Blank spaces can also result in incorrect calculations. Make sure you’ve filled every space on these forms.
Use the Online Application
The online FAFSA® is a better choice compared to the paper version. It’s easier for the recipient to read and review, it’s typically easier for you and your parents to fill out, and it will get you faster results. If you complete your FAFSA® online, sign with an FSA ID, and provide a valid e-mail address, you should receive a link to your student aid report via email within three to five days. Paper applications can take two to three weeks.
Any time you’re using a numeric amount on the FAFSA®, you should round to the nearest dollar. Don’t worry about including decimal points and cents. You can also skip the commas in numerals. Trying to include decimals or commas can throw a number off when you’re filling out an online application. Watch carefully for number errors.
Use the Right Marital Information
Many students get tripped up on the marital information in the FAFSA®. You should list your own marital status as it stands on the day that you complete and sign the FAFSA®. You’re counted as single even if you’re planning to get married in the near future.
If your custodial parent is remarried, you must include your stepparent on the FAFSA®. If your parents live together but are no longer married, you still need to include both parents’ information on the FAFSA®.
Remember that you need to fill out the FAFSA® every year. If you’re currently enrolled in college, you should think ahead to your next year of school. This means you’ll fill out the FAFSA® for your sophomore year as early as October of your freshman year. Stay on top of the FAFSA® to maximize your aid.