5 Steps to make financial aid application less painful

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By Susan Pohorski

You may have heard other parents complain about the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA. Many families dread having to go through this each year.

While the federal government is working on simplifying the process, there will still be some work and advance preparation to filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. To make the process as painless as possible follow these steps: 

  1. The earliest date for filing the FAFSA is January 1. However, you may want to start collecting the required documents now. Do you know where to find things like W-2 forms, income tax returns and bank statements for the student and parents? Be sure to have the student’s driver’s license and social security card available. If you are not a citizen of the United States, you may need your alien registration card or permanent resident card.
  2. If you want to complete a paper FAFSA, you must call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243) to have a form mailed to you.
  3. As you begin making a list of the colleges to which will apply be sure to make note of each college’s Federal School Code.  Use the School Code Search on www.fafsa.ed.gov. Make a list of college addresses with the School Codes.
  4. Obtain your Federal Student Aid ID. You will need this to fill out the FAFSA online. With this you can import your tax information from the Internal Revenue Service, view or print an online copy of your Student Aid Report (SAR) and make online corrections to an existing FAFSA.
  5. Fill out the FAFSA on the Web Worksheet. This will help you gather all the necessary information before you begin filing the FAFSA electronically. It will help you determine what you don’t know and need to find out.

You will only have to fill out the FAFSA once each year. The information will be transmitted to up to 10 colleges to which you are applying. Don’t be fooled by organizations charging a fee to help you file the FAFSA. Remember the first letter is F for FREE. 

If you have filed the FAFSA before share some things you learned and tips for first-time filers.

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