Tips on Filling Out the FAFSA
By Heather Sutcliffe, Citizens Bank
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, otherwise known as your FAFSA, is the first step to securing most types of financial aid including the Federal Stafford loan. At Citizens Bank, we walk families through every step in the financial aid process, including all those confusing forms! Below are some tips to keep in mind when completing this important document.
Snail Mail vs. E-Mail
Filing electronically is much quicker. Paper copies of the FAFSA take 4-6 weeks to get processed while the electronic version only takes 7-10days. The electronic form also helps ensure that the information is filled out correctly, because it will not allow you to advance to the next page if any information is missing.
To file electronically visit www.fafsa.ed.gov. You can obtain a paper copy of the FAFSA from your high school’s guidance office or the college or university you plan on attending.
Start at the Beginning
Make sure you read the directions carefully and fill in all the required information.
When filling out a section of the form that applies to you, do not leave anything blank! Instead, you should fill out the word “none” or N/A. Make sure to complete only sections that are applicable. For example: Do not complete the Parent section if you are an independent student. Make sure to complete your FAFSA as soon as possible after January 1st if you plan to enter school in the fall.
Deadlines, Deadlines and more Deadlines!
Freshmen often have earlier deadlines than returning students. Most deadlines are the date the FAFSA should be received. Make sure to allow enough travel time (especially via mail) for the form to reach its destination before the actual due date. Make sure to check School AND State specific deadlines. They are usually earlier than deadlines for Federal Aid. Don’t wait until your taxes are filed to complete your FAFSA! You can fill in your estimated income and then simply complete your taxes as soon as possible thereafter.
More Info Please
Some schools require additional forms to be filled out along with the FAFSA. Check with the school you are planning on attending to be sure that you complete all of the necessary forms the school requires! Make sure to respond promptly to any verification requests. Delays could jeopardize your financial aid award.
Be a Copycat
It is extremely important to make or print copies of EVERYTHING before you send it in! Keep a folder of all your financial aid information including forms, tax returns, W-2’s, etc. Having a folder will also make the verification process more efficient since all the necessary information is in one place!
Citizens Bank prides itself on making education possible for students and their families. We offer both federal and private loans.