5 Steps to FAFSA Completion

If your high school senior is starting college this fall, it’s time for the two of you to complete and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Your FAFSA needs to be accurate and on time, because its the gateway to more than 80% of all financial aid awarded in the United States.

You’ve probably heard the FAFSA horror stories. Yes, the FAFSA asks a lot of questions and, yes, some of those questions can be complicated. But you needn’t fear the FAFSA. If you approach it correctly it’s not all that difficult.

Here are five things that’ll help you fill out your FAFSA correctly and punctually:

(1) File it before your FAFSA priority deadline: Remember, your FAFSA priority deadline is the earliest FAFSA priority deadline for any school your student may attend in 2016-17. It’s also your state’s priority deadline if that comes first. You can still file the FAFSA after this date but, the later you file, the greater the chance that your student will lose out on various grants, need-based scholarships, and work-study awards.

(2) Create your FSA IDs on the Federal Student Aid website: You and your student each need to create a username and password to serve as your FSA IDs. You need this to file FAFSA data on the web – which is the easiest and fastest way to do it – to correct or update FAFSA data, and to log into secure federal websites about your student’s financial aid.

(3) Have the right stuff on hand: Gather up these documents and this information so you can make sure you and your student are completing your FAFSA with the right data:




Social Security Card



Alien ID Card (if student isn’t U.S. citizen)


Driver’s License


Most recent federal tax returns and W-2 forms



Records on untaxed income (interest, child-support, etc.)



Net worth records (cash; business, farm, investment assets; real estate — but not your family home — savings and checking account balances.



(4) Log into FAFSA-on-the-Web and answer the questions: Make sure the extension for the website you log into is “ed.gov” as some private companies have similar addresses but charge fees to send the government your Free Application for Federal Student Aid data. Once you log in, it should take you 30 minutes or so to complete your part of the FAFSA. And remember, you and your student each need to complete your own FAFSA sections.

(5) Double check your answers and file your FAFSA: You’d be surprised how easy it is to transpose a digit here or misspell a word there, so go back and proof all answers. Not doing so increases the chance of your FAFSA being delayed until aid for which your student is eligible has all been awarded to others.

College Affordability Solutions provides FAFSA completion assistance to current and prospective college students, their parents, and their guardians. Call (512) 366-5354 or email collegeafford@gmail.com if you need help.

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