You did your college research. You visited campuses. You found the school of your dreams, applied there, and were admitted. Congrats!
Now it’s time to focus on paying for your degree – and that means filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, better known as the FAFSA.
Someone probably mentioned this step to as you went through the search process, but since you can only complete the FAFSA at certain times of the year, it might not be at the top of your memory right now. But let’s drag that memory out, dust it off, and get you (and probably your parents, too) into FAFSA mode.
Here’s what you need to know about completing the 2018-19 FAFSA. (You can also visit the Department of Education FAFSA web site for a complete, if sometimes complicated, overview of all things FAFSA.)
What Is the FAFSA?
The FAFSA isn’t a grant or loan program, but it’s still really important.
Think of the FAFSA as the doorway to financial aid for college. This application gathers general information about you, plus financial information from both you and your parents (if you still live at home and they count you as a dependent on their taxes).
Why Complete It?
By completing the FAFSA and submitting it as early as possible (or at least by the deadline in the state where you plan to attend school – more about that in a moment), you begin the process of qualifying for federal grants, loans, and work-study money.
Many schools, including IPFW, also use data from the FAFSA to determine whether you’re eligible for state or local scholarships and other loan programs.
But nothing starts happening until you and your parents complete and submit your FAFSA.
When Should You Do It? (Hint: Early!)
The deadline for submitting your FAFSA depends on which state your college is in, not where you live. For example, Indiana’s deadline is midnight (Central Time) on April 15, 2018. Michigan’s deadline is six weeks earlier on March 1, but Ohio’s deadline isn’t until October 1.
Some colleges and universities have their own deadlines as well, so talk with your school’s Admissions or Financial Aid office for the details.
And whatever you do, don’t miss the deadline.
First Time? Start with Your FSA ID
Before messing with your FAFSA for the first time, you and your parents each need to register for Federal Student Aid ID numbers, also called FSA IDs.
Your FSA ID is a username and password that gets you into the Department of Education web sites, including fafsa.gov and studentloans.gov. To protect your personal information, the Department of Education will verify the information you enter against your records in the Social Security Administration. This verification step takes up to three days, which makes another great argument for starting the whole FAFSA process early.
It’s vitally important that your name, SSN, and date of birth exactly match your records with Social Security and with the information you put into your FAFSA. If the information doesn’t match, your FAFSA won’t process correctly.
Know Your School Code
If several schools made it to your final level of consideration, get the Federal School Codes for all of the schools. You’ll need them when you fill out your FAFSA.
Planning to attend IPFW after it becomes Purdue Fort Wayne in July, 2018 (pending HLC approval)? Use IPFW’s current Federal School Code on your FAFSA: 001828.
No, This Really Isn’t Everything
No matter how much information we pack into this blog, we couldn’t cover every possible thing you need to know about completing your FAFSA. But don’t worry! You’ll find more information in IPFW’s Financial Aid office, in the Admissions blog, and all over the Internet.
Want to learn more about the FAFSA and how to complete it? Download our free FAFSA first-timer checklist today!