Now, I am not the best resource for filling out the FAFSA, I was incredibly lucky and my dad helped me the past 6 years to complete the FAFSA, so he's more of an expert than I am, but I thought I would give you my hints and tricks for making a somewhat stressful thing a little easier. Once you get the hang of it though, it is pretty easy and self-explanatory.
1. Make sure you have your parents' and your W-2 forms from your employers. All of the financial information is for the previous year, so if you are filling it out now or this month, you will want tax information from 2015. This makes it easier to fill out the financial information that is needed, such as taxable income and salary information. What's great is the FAFSA form tells you what lines on the W-2 the information can be found ... such a time-saver!!
2. Put all of the colleges/universities you plan on applying to on your FAFSA. In case your college enrollment plans change, this makes sure that all of the universities you are applying to have the financial information they need. This way, if you change your mind half way through the summer, the university still has all the financial information to create a financial aid packet for you!
3. If you have a specific question about the FAFSA form, then you can reach out to your university's Financial Aid office or you can call your state's department of education. I would suggest calling the university's Financial Aid office because they can give you more specifics on what they expect, what they need, and ways to handle different problems that arise.
4. When you create your account for the first time, make sure you write down everything for getting into your account. Since you only use it maybe three times a year, you will want to know all of the passwords, PINs, and hint questions in case something goes weird when you log in next. **Keep a folder/notebook dedicated chiefly to your Financial Aid letters and loan application paperwork.
This is my Financial Aid notebook that I have used for undergrad and grad school! The booklet was given to us at my High School's Financial Aid Night and then we just used it continuously throughout the entirety of my schooling. I also keep all of my financial aid package information from undergrad in there, as well as, the information about my federal and private loans that I have.
5. If you think you have unusual circumstances that cannot be explained on the FAFSA, then set up an appointment to meet with the university's Financial Aid Office. If you can explain things like extra medical expenses or a parent's job loss, then it may help with the financial outcome for that university. At least it can't hurt you, if you talk with them!
6. Once you receive your financial aid packet, if you are unhappy with the end result, you can appeal it to the university. Each college has a different procedure and process, but most have this option. If they really want you at their institution, they will work hard to find some extra money or may give you a work study opportunity to help off-set the cost of tuition.
This is from FAFSA and if you've not attended a Financial Aid workshop at your high school, you'll want to read over it to get a better understanding of all the intriquate parts.
Estrella Mountain Community College has a really great article on tips and common mistakes that studens make when they complete their FAFSA. This is a great resource and I would read through it first before completing your FAFSA.
If your parents are divorced or you have a unique family arrangement, then you will want to check out these guidelines for completing the FAFSA. It includes which set of parents to use, if they remarried, and how to include specific financials, like child support money.
I hope this has helped you all just a little bit with filling out your FAFSA. Like I said, I am not an expert, by no means, but these tips will make the process just a little bit easier!
enjoy the chase,