October is an important month in the college application process. FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, opens its filing season for the 2022-23 school year on October 1st!
The US Department of Education uses the FAFSA to determine a student’s eligibility for federal student aid. These can be grants, work-study, and also low cost student loans. However, many colleges use the FAFSA also to assess non-federal student aid, like institutional grants and sometimes also merit aid.
What you need to know about the FAFSA
1 – MOST IMPORTANT – FAFSA opens on October 1st
October 1st is the date when FAFSA officially opens its new filing cycle. The tax year that’s important for you to use when filling in the FAFSA is 2020, that is if you are planning on starting college in 2022. People often talk about the “Prior-Prior Year rule”, which means if you start college in 2022 you will need to use your parents’ tax report from 2 years before => 2020.
2 – FSA ID – Your unique ID
Before you can start the FAFSA and especially sign it, you have to create your very own FAFSA ID, called the FSA ID. What is the FSA ID? It is your legal signature consisting of a username/password combination that allows you to log in to the U.S. Department of Education online systems. It’s a special ID, that’s unique to you! That means your parents and you, each need to sign up for an individual FSA ID with your own email address. The FSA ID lets you sign the FAFSA after having completed filling in all necessary information.
Where and how do you create a FSA ID? It’s explained in this video “How to Create a FAFSA ID”
Here is the link to go directly to the FSA ID sign-up page “Student Aid – FSA ID”
3 – IRS Data Retrieval Tool – Help with the numbers.
If your parents (or you) have filed a U.S. tax return before, it is likely that you will be eligible to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. Use it! It will make the transfer of the Federal Tax return Information of your parents (or yours) so much easier. Besides you can rest assured that you will have accurately filled in your information since the IRS will automatically populate the correct fields on the FAFSA for you. All this happens with the click of a button!
4 – SAR Report – What is it and why do I need it?
Once you have filled in the FAFSA, signed and submitted it, you will receive the Student Aid Report (SAR) . Usually it arrives via email within a few days after you have submitted the FAFSA electronically or it can take a few weeks if you submitted a paper FAFSA in the mail. The SAR has several pieces of information that are important. Among them:
A) It has a summary of all your FAFSA responses.
B) It contains the EFC (Expected Family Contribution) – it’s a number that colleges use to determine how much financial aid you are eligible for. IMPORTANT: if there is an Asterix next to the EFC, that means that further verification is needed.
C) It lists the DRN (Data Release Number) is a 4-digit number that Federal Student Aid gave your particular application. You will need this number if you have to make certain changes to your information on the FAFSA, in which case a financial aid administrator will ask you for it.
To read more about the SAR, follow this link.
5 – FAFSA – It’s not a one time affair. You need to file it every year!
Correct, you won’t just file the FAFSA once and you are done. In fact, as long as you are in college and want to be considered for financial aid, it’s important that you file the FAFSA every year! After all, you don’t want to miss out on any free money that could help offset your college cost.
Tip for students who want to start their undergraduate or graduate study abroad
Even if you might not qualify for federal grants and work-study because you decided going to university abroad (depends on the college/university you apply to), filing the FAFSA can often help you get access to federal loans which you will be able to use for your education abroad.
Don’t wait. Start your FAFSA here!
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