2019-2020 Tutorial: The FAFSA in 7 Easy Steps

2019-2020 Filing the FAFSA Guide Cover
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Free FAFSA Guide

Follow these steps:

  1. Setting Up Your Account
  2. Student Demographics
  3. School Selection
  4. Dependency Status
  5. Your Parent's Information
  6. Financial Information (Student and Parent)
  7. Sign and Submit

This step-by-step guide makes completing the FAFSA much easier. It explains what each question means and how the answers affect your eligibility for need-based financial aid.

Use the Correct Year’s Form

From October 1 to June 30 of each year, you’ll notice that there are two versions of the FAFSA available online at FAFSA.ed.gov:

  • Upcoming academic year (2019-2020 FAFSA — July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020)
  • Current academic year (2018-2019 FAFSA — July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019)

Be sure to select the correct year’s FAFSA so you don’t end up filing out the form twice!

Which FAFSA Should I File for the 2019-2020 school year

Introduction to the FAFSA

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) is a form used to apply for financial aid from the federal student aid program which is offered by the U.S. Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid. However many state governments, and most colleges and universities use the information provided on the FAFSA to also award financial aid from their own programs.

The federal student aid programs offer accessibility to federal grants, federal loans, and federal work-study. All other aid offered through other sources (like your state or school) will vary, but may also include grant and loan opportunities.

We recommend that everyone who attends an institution which offers federal financial aid to complete the FAFSA. You don’t need to wait until you decide on which school you will be attending, your information can be passed on to multiple schools.

TIP: Even if you don’t believe you are eligible for financial aid, you should complete the FAFSA. It’s a myth that all financial aid is need-based.

Ways to File the FAFSA?

You have three options to file the FAFSA:

  1. Online at www.FAFSA.ed.gov
  2. Mobile app – myStudentAid (iTunes, Google Play)
  3. Paper FAFSA (https://fafsa.ed.gov/options.htm)

When to File the FAFSA?

An important date to remember: October 1.

The FAFSA should be filed as soon as possible on or after October 1 of the senior year in high school and each subsequent year in college. Each state uses information from the FAFSA to determine how to award state aid. State financial aid deadlines may not align with the federal deadline, so it is important to know the deadline for your state.

Most colleges and universities will require the student to re-apply for financial aid by completing the FAFSA every year they are enrolled in school. A student’s eligibility for financial aid can differ from year-to-year. Even small changes may have a big impact on the amount and types of financial aid the student will receive. Examples include changes in income, student assets, the number of children enrolled in college at the same time as well as changes to the financial aid formulas.

The earlier you file, the earlier you may find out about potential aid from colleges.

General Eligibility

There is some eligibility criteria you will need to meet in order to be eligible for federal financial aid.

Note: If you do not meet this criteria, ask your school if they would still like you to complete the FAFSA.

  1. Be a U.S. Citizen or eligible non-citizen.
  2. Have a valid Social Security number (with the exception of student from the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, or the Republic of Palau.
  3. Have a high school diploma, the recognized equivalent of a high school diploma (including a General Educational Development (GED) certificate), or have completed a high school curriculum in a home school setting that satisfies the state’s requirements for home schooling. (Students who first enrolled in an accredited college, university, or career school before July 1, 2012, may qualify by satisfying alternate criteria, such as passing an approved Ability-To-Benefit (ATB) test or completing six credit hours or equivalent course work toward a degree or certificate.)
  4. Be enrolled, or accepted for enrollment, as a regular student in an eligible degree or certificate program at a college or university that is eligible for Title IV federal student aid. Students who are simultaneously enrolled in elementary or secondary school are not eligible.

To qualify for federal student aid, students must also:

  • Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®).
  • Comply with verification requirements, if the student’s FAFSA is selected for verification by the college or university the student plans to attend or the federal government.
  • Demonstrate financial need, if applicable. Some federal grant, work, and loan programs require the student to demonstrate financial need. The Direct Unsubsidized Loan, Grad PLUS Loan, and Parent PLUS loan do not depend on financial need.
  • Sign a Statement of Educational Purpose, certifying that he or she will use Title IV federal student aid to pay for education costs only. (Students may not be enrolled in multiple colleges and universities solely to obtain Title IV federal student aid refunds (credit balances) to pay for non-educationally related expenses.)
  • Most Male students must have registered with the Selective Service between the ages of 18 and 25 to be eligible for federal student aid. A failure to register must not be knowing and willful as determined by the Selective Service System. Male students between the ages of 18 and 25 may check a box on the FAFSA to register with Selective Service.

Additional Eligibility Requirements for Those Who Previously Received Aid Funds

If you have previously received federal student aid funds, there are requirements that must be met in order to be eligible to reapply for federal student aid. The following requirements apply:

  • Not be in default on a Title IV federal student loan or owe a refund on a Title IV federal student grant or loan overpayment. If the student has borrowed in excess of annual or cumulative Title IV federal student loan limits, the student must return the excess funds to the lender.
  • Have repaid Title IV federal student aid funds obtained fraudulently.
  • Not have property subject to a judgement lien for a debt owed to the U.S. government.
  • Not have a conviction for the possession or sale of illegal drugs for an offense that occurred while you were receiving federal student aid (such as grants, work-study, or loans). If this applies to you, there are ways to regain your eligibility.

The Application Process

The FAFSA application may seem overwhelming, but the U.S. Department of Education has been working to simplify it from year-to-year. We worked hard to break-down some of the steps and help guide you through the process.

Follow along with our tutorial to help you through the application!

Who to Contact for Help With the FAFSA or Other Financial Aid Applications?

With everything that you are managing on this college journey, you may not be aware that there are FREE RESOURCES available to provide help and guidance along the way.

  1. The U.S. Department of Education

    If you are applying for federal financial aid and need help completing the FAFSA, you don’t need to go it alone. You can contact the U.S. Department of Education at 1-800-433-3243.

  2. Your School’s Financial Aid Office

    If you are having issues with your FAFSA® or questions about how to submit your information (or make corrections/changes), your financial aid office can be a great resource. If they are participating in the federal aid programs, they have completed required training, meaning they are prepared to help!

    If your school requires other financial aid applications, like the CSS Profile®, the financial aid office is prepared to help you with that as well.

    Set up an appointment with your office and write down some questions beforehand. You want to make sure you get all the answers you need to finish your aid applications.