The deadline is approaching for current and new college students to get their paperwork in to apply for financial aid. Iowa College Student Aid Commission spokesperson, Heather Doe, says an important step is filling out what’s called FAFSA.
“The FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and now is the time for people to be filing that if you’re going to be going to school for the 13-14 academic year,” Doe says. While you can wait, Doe says those who are in the system first are the first ones looked at for aid.
“Many colleges have some approaching financial aid priority deadlines, and many of them are March first,” Doe explains. “Even some of our state grants and scholarships have a priority deadline of March first — which means anyone who has filed before then is going to get priority for the aid. And if it’s gone beyond that date, some people who file later may not have access to some of the funds.”
Doe says you can fill out FAFSA on-line. “They just want to go to FAFSA.gov, and make sure it is dot-gov, because there are many similar websites that will try to charge you a fee. But the first word in FAFSA is free, and we want to make sure people know not to pay for it,” Doe cautions.
“It’s a pretty intuitive process now, it’s been simplified over the last several years. It walks you through, gives you little help boxes, and kind of guides you through the process.” You do not need to have your income tax returns completed to start the FAFSA process.
You do need to have some other information available. “You will need your Social Security number — and for a dependent student they’re going to need the information for their parent’s as well. They’ll also want to have their W-9 information as well as any information on savings and investments, and that type of information,” according to Doe.
You will be able to indicate when you sign up that you are filing your taxes, and then go back and add in the tax information once you get a completed return. “There’s a new I.R.S. data retrieval tool, so you can ask that the I.R.S. just pulls that information straight over into your FAFSA, and then you don’t have to worry about inputting things incorrectly. Makes it really easy for you, and makes sure it’s accurate,” Doe says.
She says you can also make the process go faster by signing up for an electronic signature to file your FASA information. Then you can use the signature each year you fill out the new information.