Happy Holidays and a FAFSA New Year!
With our last blog of 2014, CAA would like to first wish you a happy New Year! We’re sure you are also contemplating your New Year’s resolutions in order to start the year off right. At CAA, we recommend that high school seniors resolve to complete and submit their FAFSA when it becomes available at the beginning of the year. If you are already familiar with the FAFSA, you should know that there are a few changes to the 2015-16 version. Some are enhancements to the online application, including the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, and a welcome redesign for retrieving the eSAR (electronic Student Aid Report). There are also more helpful notes, including further clarification of who the FAFSA defines as a parent. These changes will help both newcomers and experienced FAFSA filers.
Not so familiar? Well, the FAFSA, or FREE Application for Federal Student Aid, is the main form that will determine a student’s eligibility for Title IV federal financial aid based on their family’s ability to contribute to their education. It becomes available on January 1st and can be found at www.fafsa.ed.gov. We encourage families to fill out and submit the FAFSA on or soon after January 1st since some financial aid is distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. Part of any good plan is to prepare beforehand. Here are some tips for families to get FAFSA-ready:
- If you have a Social Security Number (SSN), apply for a Personal Identification Number (PIN) online NOW at: www.pin.ed.gov.
- You can do this before January 1st!
- A PIN allows the parent and student to sign the FAFSA electronically and the student PIN allows you access to your eSAR.
- If you do not have an SSN, you will be able to print, sign, and mail a FAFSA signature page after completing the online form.
- Collect your most recent tax returns and W-2s.
- Look up the current value of your investments (excluding the home you live in and qualified retirement accounts) and bank accounts.
Since the 2015-16 FAFSA will reference 2014 tax information, you may hesitate to fill it out until you’ve filed your taxes. Don’t! Most colleges encourage you to fill out the FAFSA with your best estimates using the previous year’s taxes and most current paystubs or W-2s. Submitting the FAFSA before you file will save your “place in line” for certain financial aid options. Keep in mind that corrections to your FAFSA can be made after it has been submitted, but file your taxes as soon as possible regardless! CAA clients can have confidence knowing that we are available to answer any questions during the FAFSA process. Completing the FAFSA brings you one step closer to college, and we applaud you. Wishing you Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year!
Photo Credits: 1. https://www.flickr.com/photos/lendingmemo/11943267226/