Tips When Filling Out the FAFSA

Written by Michael Bennet

FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is the free application that the Department Of Education makes available to students that wish to apply for federal student aid each year, and by filling one out by the appropriate deadlines you can make yourself eligible for the Pell Grant.

While completing this Pell Grant application shouldn’t take you more than a couple of hours, it can sometimes be a rather stressful affair if you aren’t prepared beforehand.

The following contains a list of tips that should hopefully make the process of submitting the FAFSA a bit easier, and less arduous.

FAFSA Tips When Applying for a Pell Grant

  • Fill out a FAFSA regardless of your current level of income, and don’t think that you make too much money to qualify for the Pell Grant, and other kinds of federal student aid.
  • Don’t wait until your taxes are finished to complete a FAFSA—use your tax documents from the previous year to estimate the current amount you’ll owe.
  • Fill out a FAFSA at the earliest possible date you can. The earliest date is January first, the absolute latest deadline is June thirtieth.
  • Make sure that you provide the full name that is found on your social security card.
  • Never leave a question blank, always provide a zero where appropriate.
  • When asked about your willingness to accept both work-study, and student loan aid, answer yes, as this will give you the best chance at receiving the most amount of federal aid you possibly can. You can always decline aid at a later date.
  • You may be an independent if you answer yes to any of a series of questions that are provided on the FAFSA. These consist of the following:
  • Will you be over the age of 24 during the next school year?
  • Will you be working towards a master’s, or doctorate degree at the beginning of next school year?
  • Are you married?
  • Are you currently serving on active duty in the United States armed forces for purposes other than training?
  • Are you a veteran of the United States armed forces?

If you were able to answer yes to any of these questions, you should be classified as an independent, and you will therefore not have to provide any financial information about your parents during the completion of your FAFSA.

  • You will have to answer questions about your parents when you fill out a FAFSA. The following criteria should be used when evaluating who may be a parent or not.
  • Parents are living and married—Use both parents.
  • Parent is single and widowed—Use just that parent.
  • Parents are divorced—Use parent you spend more time with. If equal, who provides more financial support?
  • Parents are remarried—Use parent and step-parent.
  • Grandparents, foster-parents, and legal guardians cannot be used on the FAFSA unless they have legally adopted you.

You should list any college savings plans, or 529 plans, under your parents’ assets.

Getting a Copy of the FAFSA

Hopefully by utilizing the above tips you can breeze through the FAFSA with no sweat. Getting a copy of this Pell Grant application is actually quite easy to do, and it is recommended that you choose the online version if you want to make the process as smooth as possible. If you do decide to fill out the FAFSA online, you can obtain a copy at the website fafsa.ed.gov. You will have to get your PIN first before you are able complete the application, and you can do so at pin.ed.gov.

If you choose to fill out the written version of the FAFSA, you can obtain a copy from either your school’s financial aid department, by calling the phone number 1-800-4-FED-AID, by going online to request a copy be sent to you, or by printing one out over the web. It takes longer to receive your Student Aid Report when you fill out the actual hard-copy, so if you can gain access to the Internet it is highly preferable to complete the online version.