FAFSA – A Comprehensive Guide 2022

Filed in Scholarship Guides by on 5th March 2022

FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. It is a financial aid application that allows you to apply for grants, federal student loans, and work-study funds. Almost all two and four-year colleges, universities, and career schools use the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to award federal, state, and college-funded student aid. In this article, we discuss the FAFSA application 2022-23, FAFSA login, FAFSA deadline, FAFSA number, FAFSA verification, FAFSA parent login, FAFSA student loans, and FAFSA renewal.

 

FAFSA - A Comprehensive Guide

How to Get FAFSA Assistance

One of the most important steps students and their families can take to pay for college is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA. In recent years, some states have made completing the FAFSA a requirement for high school graduation. According to the most recent Federal Student Aid annual report, the US Department of Education awards around $115.6 billion in federal grants, loans, and work-study funds.

According to the agency, federal funds help roughly 10.8 million students finish their education. Financial aid from the federal government can be given in the form of a grant, borrowed, or earned through work experience. Here are some common FAFSA questions and their answers.

 

What Is the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)?

According to Brad Barnett, director of financial aid and scholarships at James Madison University in Virginia, “the FAFSA is the application that is required to be used by all schools in awarding federal student aid. If you want federal loans, grants, or work-study, you must fill out the FAFSA.” Almost every student who applies is eligible for federal financial aid. According to Barnett, “it’s very easy to qualify for aid based on the FAFSA.” However, completing the FAFSA is a confusing and complex process for most families.

The FAFSA paper version has over 100 questions, which is nearly three times the length of the standard federal income tax form. On the other hand, the online FAFSA employs skip-logic technology to present relevant questions to applicants. The length of time it takes to complete the FAFSA varies. Dependent students typically take longer to complete because they must provide both their own and their parents’ information.

It also takes longer to complete the FAFSA the first time than it does to submit it again as a student progresses through college. According to a Department of Education spokesperson, dependent students take an average of 63 minutes to complete a new form and 41 minutes to complete a renewal form for the 2023-2023 FAFSA; independent students take an average of 24 minutes to complete a new form and 19 minutes to complete a renewal form.

 

How to Use the FAFSA to Apply for Financial Aid

Students can use a computer or a mobile phone to complete the online FAFSA application. The paper version, known as the PDF FAFSA, can also be printed and filled out by hand or filled out on the screen before printing and mailing. The FAFSA mobile application debuted in 2018 and will continue to be available when the 2022-2023 FAFSA opens on Oct. 1. The phone-friendly version of the FAFSA from the Department of Education aims to boost FAFSA completion rates. According to Pew Research Center survey data from 2021, 97% of Americans own a cellphone of some kind.

Families must download the myStudentAid app from the Apple App Store or Google Play to complete the form on a mobile phone or tablet. According to the Education Department, students and parents can begin filling out the FAFSA on one device, such as a cellphone, and finish it on another, such as a desktop computer. The FAFSA does not have to be completed by both parents and students at the same time.

1. Collect your FAFSA paperwork

There’s a list of paperwork needed to complete the FAFSA. Students will need their Social Security number, driver’s license or state ID number, and alien registration number if they are not citizens of the United States. Citizens’ tax information, untaxed income records, current bank statements, and investments (if any), as well as a list of schools they want to attend. Parents will need tax information, untaxed income records, net worth, investment information, and current bank statements.

2. Make an FSA ID

Before completing the FAFSA, you must first create an FSA ID, which acts as an electronic signature. The Federal Student Aid website has a link for parents and students to get an FSA ID. Applicants will need their Social Security number, date of birth, and name as it appears on official documents to create a unique ID. The FSA ID is required to sign the FAFSA online and log in to the myStudentAid mobile app. While a student or parent can use the FSA ID to sign a first-time FAFSA application right away

Other activities, such as a FAFSA renewal, must wait for the Social Security Administration to validate the information submitted to create the ID, which takes one to three days on average. Because applicants are not permitted to create IDs on behalf of others, parents and students will need to create their own unique IDs.  A student can enter all zeros where it asks for the parent’s Social Security number on the online FAFSA form and then select the option to print a signature page at the end of the application if the parent does not have a Social Security number.

Unless the student is considered independent on the FAFSA, students under the age of 24 who are seeking a certificate, associate’s degree, or bachelor’s degree will need both a student and parent FSA ID.

The student must be married or separated but not divorced; a veteran or current member of the armed forces; an orphan; an emancipated minor or in a court-ordered legal guardianship; a homeless youth or one at risk of becoming homeless; a parent who provides more than half of the financial support for a child or dependent; or have received foster care or been a ward of the court for any period after age 13. On the FAFSA, graduate and professional students are considered independent.

3. Enter information about the student and the parent.

Students must fill out the FAFSA with information about their citizenship and marital status, legal residence, Social Security number, and the number of people in their household to apply for financial aid. The same information will be required from parents. Applicants must also list at least one school to which they intend to apply or to which they have already applied so that the school can receive their information.  Students can choose up to ten institutions on the online form, but only four on the PDF version.

Minor changes were made for the 2021-2022 award year as part of the phased implementation of the FAFSA Simplification Act, which was passed by Congress on Dec. 27, 2020, to streamline the application process and increase access to federal aid. The requirement that male students register with the Selective Service System to receive federal aid has been removed, as has the penalty for answering “yes” to a question about drug-related convictions. While these questions are still on the FAFSA, they are no longer considered by colleges.

4. Fill in your financial details

The FAFSA uses tax data from the “prior-prior year” – verified tax returns from the previous two years. For example, a family filing the FAFSA for the 2022-2023 academic year will use the 2020 tax return. The use of verified prior-year tax returns reduces the need to use estimates on the form. Students and parents will be required to disclose their income and child support payments and whether they received federal program benefits such as Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or free or reduced-price school lunch when filling out the form.

5. Fill out your FAFSA and send it in.

If they are filing as dependents, students and parents must sign the FAFSA to complete it thoroughly – either digitally using their FSA ID or by hand on the paper version. The applicant will receive a Student Aid Report, or SAR, after applying. The report includes the applicant’s responses to the form’s questions and the expected family contribution, or EFC if the application is complete. This number is used to determine a student’s financial aid eligibility.

Whether the applicant provided a valid email address, the Department of Education will send the report via email or postal mail. According to Pam Andrews, founder of The Scholarship Shark, a Delaware-based college coaching company that helps students and parents maximize awards, the SAR is a summary of the FAFSA data submitted, so applicants should review it carefully for any errors. “You can always make changes after you submit it; you’ll have to wait a day or two, but a family can go back in and update their FAFSA.”

The Department of Education selects some FAFSA forms for verification. Typically, the verification process requires more than 3 million low-income individuals who are eligible for the federal Pell Grant and submit the form to provide proof of their information. However, for the award year 2021-2022, the department has temporarily changed this process to focus on verification, specifically on identity theft and fraud. The information will be sent to the list of schools each student provided after the online FAFSA is processed by the Department of Education within three to five days. The colleges will use it to determine financial aid eligibility.

 

2022-2023 FAFSA: Free Application for Federal Student Aid

Students can begin filling out the 2022-2023 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) at www.fafsa.gov on October 1, 2021. The FAFSA is the main college financial aid application that students must fill out to determine their eligibility for state and federal scholarships and grants. Regardless of post-secondary plans, all students should file the FAFSA for the years 2022-2023! Students and parents will use tax information from the year 2020 to fill out the FAFSA for the years 2022-2023. Students should fill out the FAFSA as soon as possible because some state and federal financial aid grants are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.

Students will receive an email confirming their FAFSA submission, which will include the date and time of the submission. The confirmation email should be saved for future reference. The deadline to submit the FAFSA for the academic year 2022-2023 in order to remain eligible for TN Promise has been extended to March 1, 2022!

Step 1: FSA ID Creation

The student and the student’s parent must create an FSA ID username and password at studentaid.gov before completing the FAFSA. This is the only place where you can get an FSA ID. To create FSA IDs, both the student and the parent must have two active email accounts. The student’s and parent’s email addresses cannot be the same.  Students should use a personal email address rather than a high school email address because the latter may be deactivated after graduation. Because the FSA ID serves as the student’s and parent’s electronic signature, it’s critical to keep FSA ID information safe for future reference if changes are needed after the FAFSA is submitted.

Step 2: File the 2022-2023 FAFSA

Students must visit www.fafsa.gov to file the 2022-2023 FAFSA after creating FSA IDs. Documentation required to file the FAFSA for the years 2022-2023:

  • FSA IDs for students and parents
  • 2020 Federal Tax Return or other proof of income
  • Social Security Number
  • Driver’s license
  • Student and parent tax information for 2020
  • Most parents and students can use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to import their 2020 tax information into FAFSA.
  • Untaxed income records from 2020, including child support payments and veterans’ non-education benefits
  • Current account balances, stock, bond, and other investment information, as well as business and farm assets
  • Registration card for aliens (if the student is not a U.S. citizen)

Please contact our team for assistance with the FAFSA or call the FAFSA helpline at 1-800-433-3243. Due to ongoing weather-related school closures and the ongoing COVID-19 surge, the deadline has been extended from February 1, 2022, to March 1, 2022.

 

What Students Are Eligible for Federal Student Aid?

Citizens, nationals, legal permanent residents, and individuals with an Arrival-Departure Record from the United States are eligible. Certain designations, such as refugees, are eligible to apply for federal student aid, according to the Citizenship and Immigration Services. To be eligible, students must be enrolled in a Title IV-eligible program, which means one that can receive federal financial aid funds. The FAFSA collects data on income, assets, and demographic factors like household size and the number of children enrolled in college at the same time.

This data is used to calculate the expected family contribution, which is used to determine federal student aid eligibility. For example, if the EFC is zero, the student will certainly be eligible for the maximum Pell Grant – a federal grant based on financial need. In the 2022-2023 award year, families earning less than $27,000 per year will have their EFC calculated as a zero. Even families with higher incomes, however, may be eligible for assistance.

“There is no explicit income cutoff, and different types of aid have different awarding criteria,” says Mark Kantrowitz, a financial aid expert and author of “How to Appeal for More College Financial Aid.” For example, students who aren’t eligible for a federal grant may still qualify for work-study or federal loans, which have lower interest rates than private education loans. According to Sallie Mae’s How America Pays for College survey from 2021, 68% of families applied for the 2020-2021 FAFSA.

Families who did not apply were often under the impression that they would not be eligible for federal financial aid. Others failed to meet the deadline or thought the application was too difficult. According to Ashley Boucher, a spokesperson for Sallie Mae, “nearly a third of families are potentially leaving thousands of dollars of aid on the table and essentially paying more for college than they need to. This is undeniably a problem.”

 

Who Is Eligible To Participate In This Program?

You must meet all of the following requirements to be eligible for this benefit:

  • Be a U.S. citizen or a non-citizen who qualifies.
  • Possess a current Social Security Number (unless you are from the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, or the Republic of Palau)
  • If you are a male between 18 and 25, you must register with Selective Service. For more information, visit the Selective Service System website.
  • Have a high school diploma or a General Education Development (GED) certificate, or pass a US Department of Education-approved exam
  • Be enrolled or accepted as a regular student in an eligible program at a school that participates in the federal student aid programs, working toward a degree or certificate.
  • You must not have been convicted of a drug offense while receiving federal student aid (such as grants, loans, or work-study).

 

How Does The FAFSA Figure Out How Much Financial Aid You Get?

Financial aid officers start by calculating your school’s Cost of Attendance (COA). Tuition, fees, and room and board are all included in the COA. It considers the price of school supplies, transportation, and other costs, such as those associated with a disability. Then they calculate an Expected Family Contribution based on the information you provided on your FAFSA (EFC). The EFC considers a variety of factors, including family size, the number of family members in college at the same time, the state you live in, and more.

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This comprehensive guide to the EFC formula explains how the figure is arrived at. Although EFC stands for “Expected Family Contribution,” it is not the amount you will pay. It’s a number that the financial aid office uses to figure out how much need-based aid you should receive. The formula they use is as follows:

Financial Need = Cost of Attendance (COA) — Expected Family Contribution (EFC)

The “financial need” number is the maximum amount of need-based aid you can get. Pell Grants, Direct Subsidized Loans, Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, and federal work-study are examples of need-based aid. What if the COA isn’t covered by need-based aid? The financial aid office then provides Non-need-based aid to close the gap.  Direct Unsubsidized Loans, Federal PLUS Loans for graduate students, and teacher education grants are all examples of this type of aid.

You are not obligated to accept all of the aid you receive if you decide to attend the school. You can accept some forms of aid and decline others, for example, if your aid package includes more loan money than you’re comfortable taking out. Make sure you inform the school of your plans before the deadline.

 

What is the FAFSA Application Deadline?

On October 1, the FAFSA will be available. That is the first day for applicants to submit their applications for the following academic year. While each school’s deadline varies, the federal deadline is June 30. However, schools frequently set priority filing dates, which can start as early as December 1. For example, the FAFSA for 2022-2023 opens on October 1, 2021, and closes on June 30, 2023. “If you miss a priority filing deadline, you may lose out on grant money,” says Barnett, especially when it comes to institutional aid, as many schools award need-based grants based on information submitted on the FAFSA.

“If you’re interested in four or five schools, it’s a good idea to find out the priority filing dates for each of them and then submit the FAFSA by each of those deadlines.” According to Andrews, there are three deadlines to meet. “I find that school deadlines are typically the earliest deadlines; then there are state deadlines that drive state grants and some state scholarships, so you need to know that deadline; and then there’s the hard-and-fast deadline, the June 30th FAFSA deadline.”

State aid deadlines vary, but some awards are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. According to Kantrowitz, Alaska, Indiana, Kentucky, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, and Washington are among the 15 states that have adopted this policy. “If your child is in one of those states, it really pays to file the FAFSA sooner,” says Kantrowitz, who advises filing the FAFSA close to the Oct. 1 release date. He claims that eleven other states, including Connecticut, Texas, and Rhode Island, have deadlines in December and March. Here’s the list of the FAFSA deadlines for each state.

 

Who Do I Contact if I Need Help With the FAFSA?

Students and families with questions about the FAFSA can contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center, or FSAIC, which assists students and families on behalf of the Department of Education. The FSAIC can be reached by phone at 800-433-3243, but questions can also be sent via email, webchat, or the agency’s social media platforms on Twitter and Facebook. Due to low demand, the hearing impaired applicants’ phone number has been discontinued.

You can call the Federal Student Aid Information Center (FSAIC) at the toll-free number (1-800-433-3243) for general information about federal student aid programs, assistance in completing the FAFSA, and information about FAFSA on the Web.

Call 1-800-730-8913 if you are deaf or hard of hearing.

Callers in areas without access to 800 numbers can dial 319-337-5665, which is a non-toll-free number.

 

Top 10 FAFSA Mistakes You Should Avoid

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, is a form that determines whether or not a student is eligible for federal student loans and grants. Many schools and states use the FAFSA to determine student aid. Many colleges and universities, and states also use the form to determine students’ eligibility for nonfederal need-based aid, which is money that students can use to pay for school.

According to the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, making a mistake on the FAFSA or submitting the application late can cause processing delays or limit the amount of aid awarded to a student. Here are ten common mistakes to avoid when filling out the FAFSA;

  • Not registering for an FSA ID before filling out the FAFSA
  • Not filling out the FAFSA form early
  • Using an incorrect Social Security number
  • Not listing schools where you plan to apply
  • Failing to use your legal name
  • Not completing the FAFSA each year
  • Listing parental marriage status incorrectly
  • Listing income that doesn’t match IRS information
  • Leaving too many fields blank
  • Forgetting to sign your application

1. Not registering for an FSA ID before filling out the FAFSA

Students who file as dependents and their parents must first create an FSA ID to sign and complete the FAFSA. However, because the Social Security Administration verifies the applicant’s information, the process can take up to three days. Applicants who don’t have an FSA ID can’t change their information online or prefill the form with information from previous FAFSA applications. According to the US Department of Education, because the FSA ID is linked to a student’s Social Security number, parents who previously created one as a student do not need to create another account.

2. Not filling out the FAFSA form early

The FAFSA can be completed by parents and students as early as October 1 for the following academic year. Financial aid administrators recommend applying early, even though the deadline isn’t until June 30, because some states and colleges have earlier deadlines and limited funds. “Students and parents must pay attention to deadlines and complete the FAFSA as soon as it’s available,” says David Carnevale, Chapman University’s director of undergraduate financial aid. It’s worth noting that submitting before the Oct. 1 deadline will result in applicants filling out the form for the incorrect award year.

3. Using an incorrect Social Security number

While most errors on the online FAFSA application can be corrected after submission, an error in the student’s or parent’s Social Security number may necessitate submitting a completely new application, according to experts. The Department of Education recommends using “000-00-0000” instead of an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number when filling out the form for students whose parents are not U.S. citizens or legal residents with a Social Security number.

4. Not listing schools where you plan to apply

On the online FAFSA, applicants can list up to ten schools, while they can only list four on the paper version. If you don’t include a college or university you plan to apply to; they won’t receive your information. An applicant must log in to their FAFSA account and select “Make FAFSA Corrections” to make changes or add a school to the FAFSA. Alternatively, applicants can mail up to four changes to their Student Aid Report, or SAR, on a paper version. The SAR is a summary of the FAFSA information submitted, and it is emailed or mailed to the applicant.

5. Not listing schools where you plan to apply

According to the NASFAA website, “don’t enter nicknames or other variations on your name.” The names listed on a student’s or parent’s application must match government documents such as a birth certificate or Social Security card. If an incorrect name was entered on the FAFSA, the applicant must either change the name on the paper version of the SAR or contact a financial aid office at one of the colleges listed on the SAR.

6. Not completing the FAFSA each year

To be considered for federal work-study and funds such as the Pell Grant, federal student loans, and the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, or FSEOG, students must complete and submit the FAFSA each school year. “Completing the FAFSA is required if you want to take advantage of any of the government student loans, and some colleges require it to be considered for merit scholarships,” says Shannon Vasconcelos, director of college finance for Bright Horizons College Coach.

7. Listing parental marriage status incorrectly

According to Sean Moore, founder of SMART College Funding and a certified financial planner, not disclosing remarriage is a common mistake. The initial question about parents, he claims, is perplexing. “As of today, what is the marital status of your legal parents (biological or adoptive)?” says question 58 on the FAFSA for 2022-2023. The Department of Education wants to know about your marital status on the day you sign the FAFSA. If a custodial parent has remarried, the applicant’s stepparent’s information must be included in the FAFSA.

8. Listing income that doesn’t match IRS information

Tax information from the previous year is required for the FAFSA. That means that when completing the FAFSA for the 2022-2023 academic year, families will need tax information from 2020. “The FAFSA form will be rejected if any of the answers do not match the information on the parents’ tax returns,” says Lindy Schneider, a college adviser in Denver and co-author of “College Secrets of Highly Successful People.” Financial changes, such as unemployment and income loss resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, can be reported directly to financial aid offices.

Financial aid experts also advise having tax information on hand when filling out the form or using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, which transfers tax information to the online FAFSA and reduces the risk of errors. According to Vasconcelos, applicants who use the tool are also less likely to be chosen for verification.

9. Listing income that doesn’t match IRS information

Filling out the FAFSA, which has over 100 questions, can be a confusing and complicated process for many students and their families. However, financial aid experts warn that leaving too many blanks on the application could result in a calculation error or even a rejection. The NASFAA advises applicants to enter “0” or “not applicable” instead of leaving a question blank. Applicants with questions about the FAFSA form should contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center, or FSAIC, which provides assistance on behalf of the Department of Education. The FSAIC can be reached at 1-800-433-3243.

10. Forgetting to sign your application

If an applicant fails to sign the FAFSA, the application will be considered incomplete and will not be processed. “Simply not completing the FAFSA is one of the most common mistakes a student will make,” Carnevale says. To sign electronically, applicants will need their FSA ID. The Federal Student Aid website has a link for parents and students to get an FSA ID. While many applicants complete the FAFSA online, they can also print the signature page and mail it in.

 

How to Get FAFSA Assistance During COVID-19

During the FAFSA application process, how can you get assistance? COVID-19 In the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, high schools, and colleges continue to provide virtual financial aid to students. Colleges and universities are facing yet another year of lower completion rates for federal financial aid among high school seniors as the economic turmoil caused by the coronavirus pandemic continues. This trend may be perplexing to some, but experts are concerned that COVID-19-related stressors are diverting attention away from critical financial aid deadlines or that prospective students have decided not to attend college at all.

According to an analysis by the nonprofit National College Attainment Network, the number of completed Free Application for Federal Student Aid forms, also known as the FAFSA, is down about 10% nationally for the high school class of 2022 as of Oct. 22. In high-minority high schools – those with at least 40% Black and Hispanic students – the completion rate fell even more dramatically, with about 13% fewer FAFSAs completed than this time last year. “What we’re seeing here is a snowballing decline in FAFSA completion among high school seniors in consecutive years,” says Bill DeBaun, NCAN’s director of data and evaluation.

“We know there’s a link between FAFSA completion and eventual college enrollment, so this is both discouraging and alarming.” According to Richard Tench, a school counselor at Saint Albans High School in West Virginia and the National School Counselor Association chair, the decline in FAFSA completions could be due to students opting to enter the workforce right after high school. As well as financial concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic, which have made college seem out of reach for many families.

According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, undergraduate enrollment is currently 3.2% lower than last year – a trend that some experts fear will continue. Tench says, “Parents and students are really taking time to reflect. I believe that more students are taking gap years to figure out what they want to do. There’s a general apprehension. We’re watching to see what happens as our country recovers from COVID, as the job market shifts, and whether college costs will rise.”

The transition to online learning, according to Katherine Pastor, a school counselor at Flagstaff High School in Arizona, the transition to online learning has eliminated or made more difficult the college and financial aid support systems in place for high school seniors. Pastor says, “Before, I could just pop into your class and have a quick conversation. Now I’m trying to figure out where you’re at in the application, get a Zoom link, ask the teacher to set up a breakout room for us, and hope that the student knows how to share their screen with me, so I can assist them.”

Students’ limited access to the internet and computers, technological frustrations, the limitations of a video call to assist with tasks like locating the correct tax form in a pile of paperwork, and feelings of Zoom fatigue among counselors, parents, and students are all mentioned as barriers to providing financial aid counseling. These virtual options do have advantages, such as expanding access to financial aid support, “, especially in rural parts of our country where travel is not always easy,” according to Tench.

 

Overcoming New Challenges in Obtaining Free Financial Aid

Counselors and financial aid officers have adapted, and created new supports for students as high schools and colleges continue to embrace various learning models in the aftermath of the pandemic. This fall, St. Albans, for example, held three in-person financial aid events for seniors, as well as virtual seminars on paying for college and state-specific scholarship programs. Colleges are also offering various hybrid options for promoting financial aid resources. Sante Fe College in Florida revamped its website to include more resources and tips after working with community partners to offer FAFSA information sessions last year.

Students can also enroll in an on-demand FAFSA webinar, a YouTube video that walks viewers through the application process. Students can walk into the financial aid office and ask questions, but they can also call and schedule an appointment. According to Colin Benner, coordinator for client services in the financial aid office at SF College, this has been a preferred option for most students because of its flexibility. “I believe virtual will continue to be a part of our toolkit,” he says. “We simply want to meet students where they are and provide them with the information they require.

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We’ll do whatever it takes to provide them with service, support, and ensure that they’re filling out the FAFSA correctly.” In addition, many states’ departments of higher education continue to provide FAFSA assistance in a virtual format. For example, the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation offers one-hour one-on-one “FAFSA Friday” Zoom calls, which allow students and families to work on the form from their own devices while receiving live assistance from financial aid counselors. College Goal Sunday, also known as FAFSA Day, is another opportunity for students.

The initiative began in Indiana more than 30 years ago and has since spread across the country. It’s a chance to get free help applying for financial aid on Sundays in the fall and spring, either in person or online. The dates differ from state to state. There’s also the Federal Student Aid Help Center on the Department of Education’s website, or students can call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 800-433-3243. Some high schools have resumed providing students and their families with fully in-person FAFSA resources.

According to Teresa Peterson, head counselor at Pine View High School in Utah, the school has already held one in-person FAFSA night with around 50 students in attendance this fall, in addition to one-on-one meetings for families. She advises students to speak with their counselors to understand all the available financial aid resources better. “Our biggest fear is that these kids won’t apply for it, and then they’ll feel like they won’t be able to progress to the next level,” Peterson says.

 

States That Require High School Seniors To File The FAFSA

More states require high school students to file the FAFSA to graduate. Walking across the stage to accept a diploma and celebrating with family at a graduation party are two of the most memorable moments in a student’s high school graduation. In a growing number of states, getting to those moments will require gathering the family’s financial documents and filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.

The FAFSA is required for a student to be eligible for federal student loans or grants, federal work-study, and, in many cases, state and institutional scholarships. According to the National College Attainment Network, the following states require all high school seniors to submit the FAFSA to graduate to boost FAFSA completion rates and encourage college enrollment:

  • Louisiana
  • Texas
  • Illinois
  • Alabama

According to the network, a nonprofit organization that advocates for educational equity and urges the policy requirement, this requirement will be new for high school graduates in California, who will be required to file either the FAFSA or the California Dream Act Application, beginning in the 2022-2023 academic year, and in New Hampshire, beginning in the 2023-2024 academic year. Ellie Bruecker, a senior research associate at the Seldin/Haring-Smith Foundation, believes it will continue to spread.

“Several states have passed legislation requiring their higher education departments or commissions to investigate this.” Some states are prioritizing it rather than making it a requirement. For example, in Colorado, school districts can participate in a grant program to encourage FAFSA completion. Meanwhile, rather than imposing a statewide requirement, Maryland intends to encourage completion by assisting students with the process strongly.

 

What Is the FAFSA Completion Requirement and How Does It Work?

Each state or district may have its own version of the requirement. Parents of seniors in Louisiana’s Ascension Parish School District, for example, receive an acknowledgment at the start of the school year to explain the requirement and provide information about the FAFSA. A student must forward the confirmation email to their school contact after completing the form, where it will be printed and organized alphabetically. Suppose it isn’t completed in the weeks or months leading up to graduation.

In that case, a student is contacted first, then an email, and finally a phone call to a parent, according to Shannon Hattier, an East Ascension High School career coach. “I don’t know of anyone who hasn’t graduated because they didn’t complete the requirement in the years that we’ve had it,” she says. For any reason, a student may opt-out of the requirement. Those who plan to serve in the military are more likely to have a job lined up after graduation or have parents who refuse to provide financial information, according to Bruecker.

Some states offer an alternative financial form to fulfill the requirement for undocumented students or students with undocumented parents who are ineligible to complete the FAFSA, she adds. According to Bill DeBaun, director of data and evaluation at NCAN, some states are not only implementing a FAFSA completion policy. But are also providing resources and training to help district leaders and counselors understand the requirement and support students and parents.

 

Implications of the FAFSA Completion Requirement

The FAFSA can assist students in making more informed decisions about whether or not to attend college. According to NCAN, the current FAFSA completion rate for high school seniors in the United States is 50.1 percent, a number that has steadily declined in recent years. Students who fill out the FAFSA are more likely to enroll in college, especially for students in the lowest socioeconomic quintile, where FAFSA completion is linked to a 127% increase in immediate college enrollment. “The ultimate goal isn’t for students to fill out the FAFSA and then decide not to attend college,” Bruecker says. “The ultimate goal is for students to complete the FAFSA and enroll in college as a result of it.”

She adds that while there is no “good” evidence that the requirement increased college enrollment, it has been shown to increase FAFSA completion rates in Illinois, Texas, and Louisiana. According to Carrie Warick, NCAN’s director of policy and advocacy, “it’s difficult to understand the impact of mandating FAFSA completion because many states implemented the policies right before or during the coronavirus pandemic. We ran into a pandemic when we started getting to a point where we could build some longitudinal data,” she says. “A whole lot of students didn’t return for reasons that were far greater than when or whether they filled out a FAFSA.”

According to Hattier, many families and parents found the transition to the graduation requirement difficult at first. Some people were concerned about their privacy, while others simply refused to participate. However, it has heightened public awareness of the college financial aid process. “It’s alarming for families to share personal financial information,” says James Lewis, president of the National Society of High School Scholars. “Getting over the hump that this information will help them assess the true cost of an education and provide them with financial assistance in a meaningful way.”

Families may be unaware that the tuition price they see on a college’s website is rarely the amount an average student pays, as tuition costs have risen rapidly over the years. Alexandra Van de Kieft, a junior at Cornell University in New York, says, “One thing I hadn’t realized (before going to college) is how much money is out there to help students. It can be intimidating to attend these college admissions events and take a tour, especially when the prices are listed on their pamphlets. However, once I started college, I realized how many resources are available to help students pay for it.”

 

What’s New on the FAFSA for 2022-2023?

The online financial aid application received a new look this year and a few updates. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, for the academic year 2022-2023 went live on Oct. 1 with a new online design and a few changes to financial information questions. Students who want to be considered for federal financial aid must complete the FAFSA, which colleges and states use to determine grant and scholarship eligibility. Each year, students must reapply for financial aid. The deadline to submit the FAFSA for the academic year 2022-2023 is June 30, 2023, but deadlines vary by institution and state.

“Everyone should be filling out a FAFSA form,” says Charlie Javice, founder and CEO of Frank and JPMorgan Chase’s head of student solutions. “It shouldn’t matter what your financial situation is because it opens the door to private scholarships even if you don’t qualify for need-based aid. So, regardless of your household income, filing that is extremely important.” Individuals’ income or employment may have changed due to the coronavirus pandemic, even though the application did not directly change. Because the FAFSA for 2022-2023 is based on data from 2020 tax returns, a student can directly inform financial aid offices about changes to their financial situation.

Colleges then use professional judgment to adjust the EFC, also known as expected family contribution, on a case-by-case basis. Be ready to double-check any financial changes. According to Dana Kelly, vice president of professional development and institutional compliance at the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, if out-of-date tax information is due to job loss, students or families must provide documentation such as a separation letter, an employer statement, or an unemployment payment stub.

“This isn’t necessarily something you want to do for all of the schools (you applied to) because it could be a lot of work,” she advises. “However, once you’ve narrowed your options down to a school or two, you’ll want to let them know that your circumstances are unique.” Katie Burns, an IvyWise college admissions counselor, is concerned about how changes in income and employment caused by the pandemic will affect future student aid packages.

“If parents return to work (in 2021), have a higher or more typical income, some student’s need-based financial aid packages may be significantly smaller (next year), and it may mean some difficult decisions about their college tuition payments,” Burns, a former senior assistant director of admissions at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, wrote in an email. “While no one can predict the future, I strongly advise students and their families to plan ahead for four years of college and financial aid.”

Individuals and families should not claim stimulus checks or federal coronavirus-related grants as untaxed or taxable income on their tax returns. According to the US Department of Education, the total amount of funds in an individual’s bank account should be reported at the time of completing the form. Over the next few years, larger changes resulting from the FAFSA Simplification Act, which was enacted in December 2020, are expected. Students and families should be aware of some differences between the 2022-2023 form and the 2022-2023 form.

 

Questions about Selective Service and Drug Convictions

Although the FAFSA Simplification Act is not set to take effect until the award year 2024-2025 fully, the US Department of Education has begun a phased implementation. On this year’s form, some of those changes have been made. The requirement that male students register with the selective service to receive federal student aid was eliminated, as were the penalties for answering “yes” to a question about drug-related convictions while receiving federal student aid. These questions are still on the FAFSA, and students should answer them honestly.

Still, colleges can no longer use the answers to determine whether a student is eligible for federal financial aid. “We know there are disproportionately more minorities (affected by this drug issue) than others,” Javice says. “As a result, we believe this is a great first step toward achieving equity in terms of financial aid and college access.” Both questions will be removed entirely from the 2023-2024 form, and students will no longer be able to register for selective service through the FAFSA.

 

FAFSA Website Updates

The online FAFSA application was revamped this year to improve site navigation and user experience. Applicants can now specify whether they are a student, parent, or preparer before filling out the form. More help texts are available throughout the form, especially around tax information, and skip logic, which shows only questions specific to the applicant. Screenshots of a tax form, for example, are provided to highlight the areas where information should be gathered for each question. Brendan Williams, senior director of external counseling at uAspire, observes that there is also more clarity around the household size and number in the college question.

According to Williams, the Student Aid Report, which summarizes applicants’ information from the FAFSA form, has been updated to be a multitab webpage rather than a single page. “I believe this version of the FAFSA will be easier to fill out for most students and families,” he says. “Because the design is more straightforward and the help text is more visible.” There is a greater emphasis on certain areas that students struggle with.

 

FAFSA Deadlines You Should Know

Although the federal FAFSA deadline is June 30, college and state deadlines are frequently much earlier. The deadline to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, for students seeking federal financial aid to pay for college, is June 30 each year. However, prospective and current college students should submit the FAFSA as soon as possible after the application opens on October 1 of the school year in which the aid will be used to increase their chances of receiving aid.

This isn’t always the case. Many students, according to experts, wait until their state’s deadline, or even later, to submit the FAFSA. The federal application is open for a full 21 months, with the application not closing until June 30, nearly two years after it was first opened for a given award year. For the 2022-2023 FAFSA cycle, for example, the application opened on Oct. 1, 2021, and students had until June 30, 2023, to submit the form. This means that high school seniors planning to enroll in college in 2022 could start filling out the FAFSA as early as October. Corrections and updates must be submitted by September 10, 2023.

Students must complete the FAFSA to be eligible for federal financial aid such as work-study, student loans, and the Pell Grant, as well as a variety of other college and state need-based aid. They must juggle multiple independent FAFSA deadlines unique to their college and state in addition to the federal deadline. The difference in college funding between filing early, on time, and late can be thousands of dollars. Each state has its own grant and scholarship programs, which are usually only open to residents and have much earlier deadlines than the federal deadline.

State and institutional deadlines can arrive as early as October or as late as early spring the following year. However, even if a student misses an institution or state deadline, financial aid may still be available. “Unless you missed the June 30th FAFSA deadline, limited aid opportunities (Pell Grants and Federal Loans) should still be available as long as the student remains enrolled at least half-time and meets all other requirements,” wrote Marty Somero, director of financial aid at the University of Northern Colorado, in an email. “A student should always check with their school to see if there are any exceptions to missed deadlines, especially if there were genuine extenuating circumstances like a parent’s death.”

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Students in Indiana, for example, can file an appeal if they miss the state deadline. According to Colby Shank, assistant vice president for student financial aid at Ivy Tech Community College in Indiana, the state’s scholarship money is guaranteed for students who meet the requirements and submit the FAFSA by the state deadline of April 15 happens to be Tax Day. However, he points out that this isn’t the case in all states, as Alaska, Kentucky, Nevada, and many others provide funding until it runs out. Experts say that limited funding and strict deadlines are just two reasons why students should apply for financial aid well ahead of the FAFSA deadline.

“Managing deadlines and staying ahead in your studies is an important part of doing well in college,” says one student, “AIG Retirement Services’ chief executive officer, Rob Scheinerman, wrote in an email. “The same is true when applying for financial aid – filing the FAFSA as soon as possible is a good habit to get into because many types of financial aid are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. If you’re applying to several colleges, having the financial aid award letters on hand can help you compare costs, which is an important factor in determining the best fit.” Students and family members must create an FSA ID in order to complete and sign the FAFSA form online.

Though some deadlines, such as institutional deadlines, may be flexible, Financial Aid Coach founder and lead consultant Blaine Blontz says students will maximize their aid by being aware of all grant and scholarship deadlines and submitting the FAFSA early. He goes on to say that there are other benefits. Blontz wrote in an email, “Something that I’ve seen with the families I work with is just the peace of mind that comes with meeting the deadlines. Do you have any financial aid forms to fill out the week of October 1? No, that isn’t required.

Is it nice to have all of your requirements in before Thanksgiving, even if you aren’t planning on taking any early action or making any early decisions? Absolutely.” Over the last two years, there has been a downward trend in FAFSA completion rates among high school seniors, which experts attribute to the coronavirus pandemic. According to MorraLee Keller, director of technical assistance at National College Attainment Network, a nonprofit membership organization, the class of 2020 filed 3% fewer FAFSAs than the year before, with the class of 2021 experiencing another drop of more than 4%.

“Many college opportunities, for lack of a better word, were nothing but virtual last academic year,” she says. “If students were not interested in a virtual college experience, it is possible that they would not have attended.” A decrease in the number of students graduating from high school, COVID- Keller says that 19 safety concerns, family circumstances, and economic situations such as income loss are all influencing whether or not to attend college. Every year, the US Department of Education publishes a list of state FAFSA deadlines.

Students should also check their college’s website for specific grant and scholarship deadlines, or contact their financial aid office if the deadline isn’t clearly stated, according to Shank.

 

What to Do If You’re Selected for FAFSA Verification

In 2018-2019, 22% of FAFSAs were chosen for verification, which requires the submission of additional documents. Each October, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, opens for a new round, but simply filling out the form isn’t always enough to receive federal financial aid. During the verification process, many students are asked to provide proof of their information. While the US Department of Education has been working to lower FAFSA verification rates for years, from 2011-2012 to 2017-2018, the percentage of filers selected for verification ranged from 30% to 38%.

However, in 2018-2019, the most recent year for which data is available, a smaller proportion of students – about 22% – were chosen for verification. According to Carrie Warick, director of policy and advocacy at the National College Attainment Network, which released a comprehensive review of verification data in August, the decrease in the number of students chosen for FAFSA verification, which can be a time-consuming process for students and their parents, is a step in the right direction for students.

“When it comes to managing taxpayer money, the federal government’s main goal is to make sure they’re not paying out to students who don’t qualify,” Warick says. “That’s why low-income students are more likely to be flagged (for verification), and why we’re concentrating our efforts on lowering the number of students who have to go through the process.” According to Warick, students who are eligible for the Pell Grant, a federal financial aid program for students with low household incomes, are more likely to be selected for verification.

Still, the Department of Education does not reveal the specific criteria and algorithms used to select students for verification. Families may be asked to send federal tax return transcripts to a college financial aid office to complete FAFSA verification. Families may also submit a signed copy of the required income tax return. Colleges may ask for proof of income, college registration forms for siblings, or other supporting documents. The Department of Education changed the way applications were selected for verification for the 2019-2020 academic year and the types of tax documents students could use to prove the validity of the information provided on their FAFSA.

Families who did not file a tax return with the IRS now have more flexibility, though non-filing verification is still required. Suppose a student does not finish the FAFSA verification process. In that case, they will be denied federal financial aid. “We can’t give you any aid until you complete the verification,” says Nancy Coolidge, a former associate director of student financial support at the University of California system’s president’s office. The distribution of federal aid to students is prohibited until the verification process is completed. Depending on the information provided, students who complete the verification process may see their aid packages increase, decrease, or remain unchanged.

According to NCAN’s verification review, about 71% of students’ awards remained intact after the process in 2018-2019. Experts say that, while the verification process may appear to be a hassle, it is not. Here are four suggestions for students who have been chosen for FAFSA verification:

  • Don’t panic.
  • Respond immediately to the verification notice.
  • Watch the clock.
  • Use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.

1. Don’t panic.

A FAFSA verification notice may frighten students or even deter them from enrolling in college. “Students and families should understand that being selected for verification does not mean you’ve done anything wrong,” says Jesse O’Connell, federal policy strategy director at Lumina Foundation, an Indianapolis-based nonprofit that promotes educational access. “All they’re doing is double-checking that the numbers on the FAFSA correspond to the original documentation.” While some FAFSAs will be checked for inconsistencies, others will be chosen at random. According to experts, a college – particularly a small school – may verify 100% of financial aid applicants, depending on the institution.

As a result, students should maintain their composure and respond quickly. In an email, Lori Vedder, director of financial aid at the University of Michigan—Flint, wrote, “While the process itself may feel intrusive and intimidating, it should not be viewed in that manner. The aid office is ready to assist you. There’s no reason to let money go to waste or to let the verification process keep you from going to college.”

2. Respond Immediately to the Verification Notice

Students are sometimes unaware that they have been chosen for FAFSA verification or simply do not respond on time. “If they’re still waiting for verification pieces, it will delay your financial aid,” says Jodi Okun, founder of College Financial Aid Advisors, which assists families with the college financial aid process. On your Student Aid Report or SAR, an asterisk next to the expected family contribution amount indicates that the FAFSA was selected for verification. Schools may contact students via their online student accounts, university email, or personal email addresses to provide more information about the requested documents.

Experts advise students to check those accounts regularly after filing the FAFSA. “It is the responsibility of students to be mature and check,” Coolidge says. “If a student is spending the summer in Mongolia, they should designate someone to check it for them.”

3. Watch the clock.

Although filling out financial aid paperwork isn’t everyone’s idea of fun, students should not put off submitting verification documents. “It’s important to remember that submitting the requested documents is just the first step; the institution must then review the documents, make any necessary corrections to a student’s FAFSA, and have the results returned and loaded into their systems. Some schools may be able to complete this in a matter of days, while others may take 2-4 weeks,” according to Vedder.

According to Coolidge, students attending a university in the University of California system must submit verification documents by mid-May. However, because deadlines differ by institution, students should check with theirs. Before summer begins, most students will need to complete FAFSA verification.

4. Use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.

Using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, which transfers information directly from filed tax returns to the FAFSA, is an increasingly common way to reduce the chances of being selected for verification. “For families who use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool and don’t change their information afterward, that information is already considered verified,” O’Connell says. Students and families can use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool through the Department of Education’s app, myStudentAid, which is available on mobile devices.

Whether or not they use the tool, all families should strive to be accurate the first time they file the FAFSA. “The first step is to fill out the FAFSA to the best of your knowledge, to be the most accurate and true,” Okun says.

 

5 FAFSA Myths About Parent Information

Don’t put off filling out this crucial financial aid form due to misunderstandings about the information it requires. If you don’t fill out the FAFSA, you could be missing out on a lot of money for college. If you haven’t yet submitted your Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA, you may be having trouble with the financial information requested for your parents. Perhaps your circumstances have changed, and you need to update information that you previously provided, but you’re not sure what’s allowed. Delays with the parent information section of the application can sometimes be the result of misunderstandings about how the financial aid process works.

It can be difficult to tell what is true and what is false when there is so much information about federal student aid available online. Check studentaid.gov or speak with a financial aid administrator at your college or university if you’re unsure. Here are five common misconceptions about FAFSA parent information:

  • Because my parents earn too much money, I will not be eligible for financial aid.
  • I can’t apply for federal student aid because my parents are undocumented.
  • My parents are now responsible for paying for college as a result of providing their information.
  • There’s nothing I can do if my financial situation changes.
  • The financial aid decisions are final.

1. Because my parents are wealthy, I will not be eligible for financial aid.

Make no assumptions! There is no income cutoff for federal student aid eligibility, and many factors other than income are taken into account. While some types of aid, such as Pell Grants and direct subsidized loans, are only available to students who have demonstrated financial need, you must still complete the FAFSA if you plan to borrow direct unsubsidized loans or Parent PLUS loans. They are accessible to people of all income levels. In addition, many colleges use the FAFSA to disburse institutional or scholarship aid. You could be losing out on a lot of money for college if you don’t fill out the FAFSA.

2. I can’t apply for federal student aid because my parents are undocumented.

Parents are not asked about their citizenship status on the FAFSA. Undocumented students are ineligible for federal financial aid, but their parents’ citizenship has no bearing on their aid eligibility. If your parents do not have your Social Security number, they can enter all zeros in its place and your FAFSA will be processed. Contact a financial aid administrator at your college for help if you have any questions or concerns.

3. If I give my parents my financial information, they will be responsible for paying for college.

On the FAFSA, parent information is used to calculate your expected family contribution, or EFC, which can give the impression that parents are responsible for costs. In reality, this is just a measure of your family’s financial ability that is used to determine how much need-based aid you are eligible for. After receiving your financial aid award, you and your parents can discuss any costs not covered by financial aid and decide together who will be responsible for those costs and how they will be paid. Your parents can then decide whether to take out federal Parent PLUS loans or look for a private student loan to cover those expenses.

4. There’s nothing I can do if my financial situation changes

You can contact your financial aid office to request an adjustment if your family’s financial situation changes after you’ve submitted your FAFSA. If you meet the criteria, you may be eligible for additional loans or financial assistance. Suppose your financial aid office cannot assist you right away. In that case, you can learn more about your eligibility and begin the financial aid appeal process by visiting SwiftStudent, a new and free tool.

5. Financial Aid Decisions Are Final

There are some circumstances that the FAFSA does not account for. As a result, financial aid administrators may be able to adjust your award based on professional judgment. If your family is experiencing financial hardship that was not captured on the FAFSA, or if you don’t meet the criteria to be considered an independent student but meet other special circumstances, you may want to request an appeal. If you believe you may be eligible for a financial aid adjustment, contact your college’s financial aid office and inquire about the appeals process.

 

Conclusion

Financial aid applications can be intimidating. There’s no need to be concerned. Filling out the FAFSA can be tedious and time-consuming, but by doing so, you will be eligible for a variety of financial aid programs. The first step in the financial aid process is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Fill out the form online. It is used to apply for federal student financial aid, such as grants, loans, and work-study opportunities. In addition, the FAFSA is used by most states and schools to award non-federal aid.

 

Sources

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