Get ready to block out a couple of hours on your calendar to sit down and just get that FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) done. If you’ll be applying for aid you should definitely do it online. The Department of Education recommends using FAFSA on the Web for several reasons:
- Online instructions are provided for each question and live online help with a customer service representative is available if you get really stuck.
- FAFSA on the Web is designed to find mistakes and prompt you to correct them.
- You can get the federal school code while you’re right there in the form.
- You can fill out all the questions at once or save your application for later changes and updates. This is a great feature for submitting all the information you have other than your tax return. You have 45 days from when you first submit information, or until the application deadline passes.
- Once you click “Submit My FAFSA Now” your information is immediately sent to the Department of Education.
- Your application is processed more quickly.
So now that you know where to go, it’s time to gather what you’ll need to get started. Here are 3 things you need to do in order to start filling out that FAFSA!
1. Get a PIN
Before beginning the FAFSA, you should apply for a U.S. Department of Education personal identification number (PIN) at www.pin.ed.gov. The PIN will allow you to sign your FAFSA electronically and to correct your processed FAFSA information online. Apply for your PIN ASAP because processing your request could take at least 2-5 business days.
Providing an email address will speed up the process. If you are providing parent information on the FAFSA, one of your parents must also sign your application. To sign electronically, your parent must apply for his or her own PIN.
2. Gather the information required to apply.
Required personal identification information and financial documents:
- Your Social Security Number (SSN)—or your alien registration number if you’re not a U.S. citizen
- SSN of your parent(s) if you meet the FAFSA criteria for a Dependent Student
- Your driver’s license if you have one
- Your most recent bank statements
- Your W-2 Forms and other records of money earned
- Your Federal Income Tax Return (and your spouse’s, if you are married): IRS Form 1040, 1040A, 1040EZ, foreign tax return, or tax return for Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia or Palau
- Your parents’ Federal Income Tax Return, if you meet the FAFSA criteria for a dependent student
- Records of your untaxed income such as Social Security, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, welfare, or veterans’ benefits
- Your most recent business and investment mortgage information, business and farm records, and records of stocks, bonds, and other investments
3. Grab the FAFSA on the Web worksheet.
Your college or high school might have a copy of the worksheet, or you can print one from www.fafsa.ed.gov. This worksheet is optional, but it will help you collect the information you need to fill out your FAFSA online.