FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)

All seniors have financial aid presentations in mid-November in their English classes.

We encourage all seniors planning on attending a two or four year college or university next year to file a FAFSA form.  Filing online is recommended and strongly encouraged.  This is the form that the federal government uses to determine your eligibility for federal aid, including grants, work-study and loans. Using the information you supply on the FAFSA, the federal processor determines your expected family contribution (EFC)—the amount of money your family can contribute to your college costs.  Your prospective college then applies a simple equation to decide how much financial aid you will need.

To get an early estimate of your EFC, check the Financial Aid Estimation Calculator.  Your prospective college will then try to meet your needs through a financial aid package made up of funds from federal, state and private sources…as well as loans and student employment.

What is FAFSA on the web?

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is done online.  The federal government uses FAFSA to determine eligibility for aid, which includes grants, scholarships, work-study and loans.  The form collects financial aid and demographic data.

Filling out the FAFSA is FREE… do not pay for filing out any FAFSA info ever!  When you go to the FAFSA website, be sure it is the STUDENTAID.GOV WEBSITE.  BEWARE:  There is a private FAFSA website that charges money!! 

How do I fill it out?

Visit studentaid.gov and click “before beginning a FAFSA” to get started.  If you want a paper copy to use as a guide, use the pre-application worksheet—not a paper FAFSA.  To download a copy, click “print a pre-application worksheet”.  Also, print a completed FAFSA for your records!!  Click “print” before you click “submit” at the end of your FAFSA.  Official paper forms for FAFSA are obsolete.  Students and parents must file online.

What else should I know?

When completing an electronic FAFSA, you will be required to provide your signature (and a parent’s signature if you are a dependent student).  There are three different ways to do this:

Use your 4-digit PIN number (read more on the PIN below) issued by the U.S. Department of Education to electronically sign your FAFSA.

Your parents will also need their own PINs to electronically sign your FAFSA.

Print the signature page, get the required signatures and mail the form to the address listed on your signature page.

This last option is the slowest method and not usually recommended…

Wait until you receive your SAR (Student Aid Report), get the required signature(s) and return it via the U.S. Postal Service using certified mail.

What is a FSA ID?

The FSA ID is the code that the U.S. Department of Education uses to identify you online.  A FSA ID allows you to (1) electronically sign your FAFSA to speed up the process, (2) check the status of your electronic FAFSA, and (3) make corrections to your personal information online.

*Keep your FSA ID private, as it allows you (or someone else!) to electronically sign federal documents and access confidential information!

Student and parent each need a separate FSA ID number!

Students and parents who are eligible to receive a FSA ID can visit studentaid.ed.gov and click on “Create your FSA ID Now” at the bottom of the page.  You will need to submit your name, date of birth and social security number.

For questions about FAFSA on the web or about your FSA ID, call 1-800-4-FED-AID.

Tips for Completing the FAFSA:

Tip 1:  The FAFSA becomes available after October 1 each year.   Download the document from the internet at studentaid.gov.  Begin to use the practice worksheets to plan ahead.

Tip 2:  Submit the FAFSA whether or not you think you qualify for financial aid.   Sometimes being rejected for federal aid is a prerequisite for receiving private funds.

Tip 3:  Review all your data on the FAFSA every year.  Your eligibility can change from year to year, depending on your family’s circumstances.

Tip 4:  Contact your prospective college’s financial aid office for additional information.   Your school may require forms besides the FAFSA or may have earlier submission deadlines.  In 4-6 weeks after completing the FAFSA, you will receive a Student Air Report (SAR).

Tip 5:  Read your Student Aid Report (SAR) carefully.   The colleges and universities to which you have applied (and those that you reported on your FAFSA form) will send you a Student Aid Report from their school.  You and your prospective college will each receive copies.  Report errors to the financial aid officer at your prospective school.

Tip 6:  Call the Federal Processor at 1-319-337-5665 if you do not receive your SAR in 4—6 weeks.  Be ready to provide your Social Security Number and date of birth for verification.

Tip 7:  Note your Data Release Number (DRN).   It is the four digit number on the upper right corner of your SAR.  You will need this number to apply to additional colleges or universities.

Tip 8:  Check to see if your SAR has been selected for verification.   Look under the date for the letters EFC followed by a series of numbers.  If there is an Asterisk (*) after your EFC, your SAR has been selected.  30% of forms will be asked for “verification”… you must respond immediately!

Tip 9:  If asked for SAR verification, submit the information requested to your prospective college’s financial aid office as soon as possible.   Your aid may be delayed or decreased if the materials are not promptly provided.

What you need to complete your FAFSA:

  • Your social security number
  • Your drivers license number, if you have one
  • Your W-2 forms
  • Your federal income tax returns
    • If you have not yet filed your taxes, you may use last year’s tax info and you may go back and adjust the FAFSA form after completing the current tax year’s documents.
  • Your current bank statements and records of stocks, bonds and other investments
  • Your records of other untaxed income received, such as Social Security, Temporary Assistance to Needy
    Families (TANF), welfare or Veteran’s Benefits
  • Your business or farm records, if applicable
  • Your alien registration number, if you are not a U.S. Citizen
  • If you are a dependent student, you will also need:
    • Your parent(s) social security number(s)
    • Your parent(s) income and financial records (as listed above)

Use income records for the calendar year prior to the academic year for which you are applying for financial aid.

For questions once your FAFSA is filed, do not contact the Federal Government or PNHS; call the college or university of interest.