A guide for filing for student aid
Why this matters
The application for applying for federal aid became available on Jan. 1. Here is a guide on how to get the most aid.
Set up your FSA ID.
Begin by visiting fafsa.ed.gov. In previous years, a student's FAFSA was accessed using a four-digit PIN number created by the student. This year, there's a new system to replace the PIN numbers, called FSA ID, or Federal Student Aid ID. It will take about three days to set up, so it's a good idea to get it out of the way in advance. However, a previously-used PIN number will be accepted and linked to a new FSA ID. The FSA ID can be used for multiple websites connected to the U.S. Department of Education.
While the federal deadline for FAFSA is June 30, many states, including Michigan, have their own deadlines. In Michigan, the FAFSA deadline is March 1.
According to the Michigan Department of Treasury, undergraduates who file before March 1 are given priority consideration for financial aid under the Michigan Competitive Scholarship program.
The Federal Student Aid office needs to know basically everything about a student's economic life. Having tax information makes the process go quicker, but if a student hasn't filed their taxes yet, or if their parents haven't filed yet, there's no need to fear.
"By this time of year, nobody is really thinking about filing their taxes," Associate director of MSU’s Office of Financial Aid Val Meyers said. "But it's better to give estimates and file early than wait for all your taxes to go through in April. You can always go back in (online) and put in the numbers after you get them."
Gather all your info.
Paperwork can move more smoothly when applicants are not scrambling around for every single piece of identification the government has ever given them as they’re trying to file. Some things to have ready before starting FAFSA include:
- Social Security number or Alien Registration Number if you are not a U.S. citizen
- Bank statements
- Records of taxed and untaxed income
- Your FSA ID for filing electronically.
If students identify as financially dependent, they might want a parent available or on the phone for the portion of the FAFSA that asks for parental incomes.
There have been a lot of measures put in place to make the online FAFSA a more convenient alternative to printing it out and mailing it in. In the online FAFSA more specifically, there are options to skip questions that do not apply to you and tip bubbles to help students through every question.
“The online application can do error checking, and will tell you that you’ve made a mistake,” Meyers said. “A piece of paper won’t do that for you.”