Let’s be honest here: filling out the FAFSA and your financial aid paperwork easily could be the most confusing part of the college application process (and it’s generally the #1 complaint from students and their parents when applying).
Knowing what you need ahead of time can help make the process less nerve-wracking. We’ve compiled a list of things you should have on hand or prepared before starting your FAFSA to make the process go a bit smoother.
Note: If your parents claim you as a dependent on their tax returns, you’re going to need their financial information as well. If they do not claim you as a dependent, you’ll just need your own tax information. Generally, if you’re younger than 24 years old, you’re probably considered a dependent and will need your parents’ tax information. Ideally, to be deemed an independent student for financial aid purposes you must meet at least one of the criteria below:
- Be 24 years of age or older when you file the FAFSA
- Be an orphan or a ward of the court
- Be a U.S. military veteran
- Be a graduate or professional student
- Be married
- Have legal dependents of your own
- Have a financial aid administrator who has documented your independence because of unusual circumstances
What You’ll Need
Typically, you and your parents will receive your tax documents from your employer near the beginning of the year (or you may need to go online and print them, if your employer doesn’t mail them to you).
If you or your parents worked multiple jobs in the last year, you’ll need W-2s from each employer. If you haven’t already filed your tax return for this year, you can still submit a FAFSA using estimated tax information and adjust later. You will need:
- Your Social Security Number (or Alien Registration Number if you and your parents are not U.S. citizens)
- You and your parents’ (if not filing independently) most recent federal income tax returns and W-2s
- Bank statements and records of investments for you and your parents (our bank or financial advisor can help you retrieve this information)
- Records of untaxed income for you and your parents (receipts, invoices, or other documents detailing this information should suffice)
- Your Federal Student Aid PIN, which can acquired at pin.ed.gov
- The list of schools you’re considering attending (they'll automatically be mailed a copy of your FAFSA)
It’s OK to list schools you’re not sure about—you can always add more schools later if you change your mind. Note, however, that you can only list 10 schools at a time.
We know that filling out the FAFSA can be a headache (especially if it's your first time), but if you get all the necessary paperwork together ahead of time, it's actually a piece of cake. Download this free FAFSA Checklist to hep organize everything you'll need to complete the FAFSA.
Photo Credit to Jeff Turner; Flickr