FAFSA: Free Application for Federal Student Aid

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1 FAFSA: Free Application for Federal Student Aid 1

2 2

3 Objectives Understand acronyms and jargon associated with the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Appreciate the importance of completing the FAFSA early and accurately each and every year. Recognize how to address unique family and financial situations when completing the FAFSA and, what to do if your situation cannot be addressed within the form itself. Identify the correct FAFSA website and the form itself. Become familiar with dependency questions. Determine what information and/or documents are needed to complete the FAFSA and understand where to obtain this information. 3

4 What is the FAFSA? The FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid; it is the gateway to almost all money to pay for college. This form is used to determine the amount of money (or EFC) a family can reasonably contribute to the price of attending a postsecondary institution. The results from the FAFSA are used in the awarding of student grants, work-study, and loans. is a PIN? A PIN is a Personal Identification Number. Both student and a parent (biological or adoptive) must register at for a four-digit PIN. This number is an electronic signature and will be used to sign the FAFSA. Requesting a PIN can be done at any point prior to completing the FAFSA. (HINT: If a parent already has a PIN from another student or because they have recently been a student themselves, they do not need to request a new PIN). is an FSA ID? This is a Federal Student Aid Identification. On approximately April 25 th, 2015, Federal Student Aid will switch from PINs to a Username and Password process; as you work to make corrections in late spring or summer, please be aware that PINs will no longer work. Users with a PIN will have that account linked to the Federal Student Aid ID if information matches. is a SAR? The SAR is the Student Aid Report; it is a summary (approximately 5 pages) of all the information entered into the FAFSA. The EFC can be found at the top right corner, on the first page of the SAR. Once the FAFSA is processed, the student will receive an stating the Student Aid Report is ready. is an EFC? The EFC stands for Expected Family Contribution. It is an indicator of a family s ability to pay towards the student s education. It is also used by financial offices to determine a student s eligibility for federal, state, and some institutional financial aid during one school year. 4

5 How do I start? Students should start by sitting down with a parent to request PINs at Remember, the PIN is used to electronically sign the FAFSA, so it is required. Each family should have two PINs: one for the student and one for a parent. This only differs if the student is an independent student for dependency questions, and to determine your dependency status, please see page 24. do I find the FAFSA? The FAFSA can be found at REMINDER: The FAFSA is FREE; do not complete the FAFSA at any other website. You will be asked to pay. often must I complete the FAFSA? The FAFSA is a form that must be completed every year the student is in school the earlier in the year, the better (as soon after January 1 st each year!). important is it that I check regularly? Because Federal Student Aid will the student when the Student Aid Report (SAR) is ready, it is vitally important that the student check his or her on a regular basis. Communication is not frequent, but anything from Federal Student Aid is important. Communication will also be sent if a financial aid office makes changes or corrections to a FAFSA and to remind students to make corrections if the FAFSA was originally filed with estimates. 5

6 Why should I file a FASFA? The FAFSA is the necessary application for any student wanting to receive federal, state, and some institutional aid. Think of it this way: NO FAFSA=NO AID. is it important to file as early as possible? Many kind of financial aid are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. Since some funding is limited, students want to complete the FAFSA early in order to receive funds for which they are eligible. When do I complete a FAFSA? The FAFSA is not available until January 1 st, 2015 and should be completed as soon as possible. Aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. The earlier the better! is Missouri s FAFSA deadline? In order to be considered for some Missouri aid, particularly the Access Missouri Grant, schools must receive the FAFSA before April 1 st, Students are encouraged to apply and submit no later than March 15 th each year to meet that deadline. is my school s FAFSA deadline? Many colleges and universities have their own priority FAFSA deadlines; oftentimes, these deadlines are utilized not just in the awarding of institutional dollars, but also state aid (i.e., Access Missouri). Please check with each school s financial aid office to determine what those dates might be. do I renew my FAFSA? Students should always renew their FAFSA sometime after January 1 st each year. Remember, the earlier the better! 6

7 FAFSA: Free Application for Federal Student Aid First-time FAFSA filers will want to log-in here! If you are a returning user, you will use this Login to complete, correct, or update your FAFSA! NOTE: Look for Federal Student Aid on the FAFSA website; double-check and make sure your website looks like the above and says and nothing else! Remember, the FAFSA is free and other websites may charge you! 7

8 Log-in using the student s full, legal first and last name. Please review everything; double- and triple-check! The information (i.e., Social Security Number) on this page cannot be changed once you click NEXT. 8

9 Confirm the status of the student s PIN here. If the Social Security Number for the PIN and FAFSA match, the status should either ACTIVE or PENDING IDENTITY CONFIRMATION it will depend on when PIN was requested. Please complete the FAFSA, which will be available starting January 1 st, Students will need to create a password in order to return to a saved FAFSA! 9

10 Click here in order to access the various help functions (live chat, phone number, addresses, etc.). The live chat function is great it allows you to save and print the conversations you ve had with a customer service representative. It is not mandatory to read through these, but they provide good information about Frequently Asked Questions for the FAFSA. 10

11 addresses are not required, but strongly advised! You will be required to enter it twice to confirm. This is the main way Federal Student Aid communicates with students. Students are not required to provide a driver s license. There is no reason not to, but it will not prevent a student from moving forward with completing the FAFSA. 11

12 There are several possible options in the drop-down box; please be sure to remember that students are eligible for different aid. Even if you are planning to eventually obtain a master s or a doctorate degree, please make sure to enter the degree you will be working on for the aid year. It could cause mix-ups in the financial aid process. Search for schools here remember, you can add up to 10 schools! Don t forget to ADD the schools by clicking on this box after checking the school(s) you want to select. Unfortunately, some schools do consider placement order when reviewing. We recommend entering schools alphabetically. 12

13 Don t forget to check important school information, including graduation rates! This chart also shows net price average, retention rates, and other important information. 13

14 Dependency Status & Special Circumstances 14

15 NOTE: Parent refusal to provide information or contribute to college is not a special circumstance. Schools will not provide dependency overrides in these circumstances. 15

16 16 Students who complete a FAFSA without parent information must be aware of two things. First, the student must immediately contact the school s financial aid office to begin the process of a dependency override. Second, until a dependency override has been granted, the FAFSA will not calculate a student s EFC.

17 Dependent students will need to know the marital status of their parents. If a student s biological parents BOTH live with the student, both of their financial information MUST be in the FAFSA, regardless of marital status. As of January 1 st, 2014 parent marital status includes an option that says: Unmarried but living together. This will be for families where biological parents never married or, are divorced or separated, but still reside together. By clicking on the link titled parents, one can read additional information and descriptions to best choose the correct marital status. 17

18 Both parents and students will see these questions, separately; a dependent student will see these questions twice (once for parent s income/assets and once for student income/assets). Each will have to answer if they will file, are not going to file, or have already filed 2014 federal taxes. In addition, they should indicate their tax filing status according to that tax return. By indicating will file, you will be prompted to estimate your 2014 tax information. You must include adjusted gross income, as well as earned wages. Additionally, you may be asked to indicate whether or not you ve received certain federal benefits. Once taxes have been filed, you should make a correction with updated tax information. Information on this page and the screen on page 19 will be transferred over directly if the IRS Data Retrieval function is used for 2014 taxes. 18

19 You will be answering this question for 2014 taxes. Options will include Already Completed, Will File, or Not Going to File. In February 2015, families who have Already Completed their taxes will have the option to use IRS Data Retrieval. This feature allows families to connect directly to the IRS and have tax information transferred over directly. Using IRS Data Retrieval is not required, but strongly encouraged. Federal Student Aid recommends the tool because it helps save time; families do not have to be concerned about making mistakes; and, if they use IRS Data Retrieval and do not change the retrieved information, they will not need to provide tax transcripts if selected for verification. 19

20 This question is dynamic; each individual family will have a unique asset dollar amount. It includes an asset protection allowance based on the parent(s) marital status and age. If your assets exceed the dollar amount shown on the student s FAFSA, the parent(s) must answer questions about bank accounts, savings/investments, and businesses. 20

21 This question should always be left a NO ; it is only marked otherwise if you pay someone to complete the FAFSA for you. And you should never, ever pay for FAFSA help! There are many free resources: see page 21! Both the student and one parent will sign electronically, using the four-digit PIN requested previously. Both must read the accompanying statements and indicate agreement. You are all finished hit submit! 21

22 Frequently Asked Questions Why does the Department of Education ask for income information from the year before I go to school? The law requires that this information be used, since studies have consistently shown that verifiable income tax information from the most recently completed tax year (2013 for the award year) is more accurate than projected (2014) information and provides a reasonable basis for determining family financial strength in calculating the Expected Family Contribution. I ll be filing a tax return this year, but I probably will not file until April. How should I answer the financial questions? Should I wait to fill out this form until after I ve filed my tax return? Ideally you should complete a FAFSA after you have completed your tax return, but do not wait until April. Remember, many schools award aid on a first-come, first-served basis. Also, you may not be eligible for some Missouri state aid if you wait until April to submit your FAFSA. If you haven t completed your tax return, you may use estimates from the prior tax year (2013). You can also calculate your adjusted gross income (AGI) and taxes paid using the instructions for the IRS Form The instructions can be found online at Keep in mind, if you submit your FAFSA with estimates, you will need to make a FAFSA correction later. If my parents are divorced, whose information do I need? Report the information of the parent with whom you lived the most during the 12 months preceding the date you completed the FAFSA. It does not make a difference which parent claims you as a dependent for tax purposes. If you did not live with either parent or lived equally with each parent, the parental information must be provided for the parent from whom you received the most financial support during the preceding 12 months or the parent from whom you received the most support the last time support was given. If your parents are divorced, but still share a household, both parents information is required in the FAFSA. What should I do if my parent with whom I live is remarried and my stepparent refuses to supply information? If you are a dependent student and your parent is remarried, the stepparent s information must be included or you will not be considered for federal student aid. If you believe that your situation is unique or unusual other than the stepparent s simple refusal to provide the requested information, you should discuss the matter further with your financial aid administrator at the college or university which you plan to attend. How are 529 savings plans reported on the FAFSA? There are two types of Qualified Tuition Programs: tuition prepayment plans and college savings plans (529s). Both will have the plan value reported on the FAFSA as an asset of the owner (not the beneficiary), except when the owner is a dependent student, in which case the plan is an asset of the parent. So, regardless of whether student or parent is owner, it is always reported as an asset of the parent. The plan value is not reported as an asset if the owner is another person (i.e., grandparent or non-custodial parent). In addition, plan values of a student s sibling are also reported when the parent is the owner of the plans. Whose income do I report if I live with a grandparent, aunt, etc. (other than a biological or adoptive parent)? The FAFSA is very clear only biological or adoptive parent information should be included in the FAFSA. Students who reside with a grandparent, aunt/uncle, or another adult may, depending on circumstances, be considered an independent student, which means no parent/guardian information is required. Otherwise, students may need to pursue a dependency override or begin conversations with a parent to secure necessary information. 22

23 That s great, but I still want help. Help text is available and accessible for every question on the FAFSA if you apply online at You can also get free live help online via this website. Free help is also online at: Contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center: FED.AID ( ) for assistance with any questions you have regarding your FAFSA! The Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis offers free FAFSA Completion Clinics. Please call our offices, , to schedule an appointment. February 7, 2015 (9:00am-12:00noon) February 21, 2015 (9:00am-12:00noon) Take advantage of the Missouri Department of Higher Education s FAFSA Frenzy in 2014! Here is a list of local sites, dates, and times! All FAFSA Frenzy events are free and open to the public! Bayless High School: Thursday, February 5, 2015 (4:00pm-7:00pm) Carnahan High School of the Future: Saturday, February 21, 2015 (2:00pm-4:00pm) Fontbonne University: Sunday, February 22, 2015 (2:00pm-4:00pm) Gateway STEM High School: Wednesday, February 11, 2015 (5:30pm-7:30pm) Hancock High School: Wednesday, February 25, 2015 (2:00pm-5:00pm) Harris-Stowe State University: Sunday, February 22, 2015 (2:00pm-4:00pm) Hazelwood East High School: Tuesday, February 10, 2015 (5:00pm-7:30pm) Jennings High School: Wednesday, February 25, 2015 (6:00pm-8:00pm) McCluer High School: Tuesday, February 17, 2015 (6:00pm-8:00pm) McCluer High School: Sunday, February 22, 2015 (2:00pm-4:00pm) MOHELA: Sunday, February 22, 2015 (2:00pm-4:00pm) Normandy High School: Sunday, February 22, 2015 (2:00pm-4:00pm) Orchard Farm High School: Sunday, February 22, 2015 (2:00pm-4:00pm) Potosi High School: Sunday, February 22, 2015 (2:00pm-4:00pm) Ritenour High School: Sunday, February 22, 2015 (2:00pm-4:00pm) St. Charles Community College: Sunday, March 1, 2015 (2:00pm-4:00pm) St. Louis Community College Harrison Education Center: Thursday, March 12, 2015 (5:00pm- 8:00pm) St. Louis Community College Wildwood: Thursday, March 26, 2015 (6:00pm-8:00pm) Silex High School: Tuesday, February 10, 2015 (6:00pm-8:00pm) South Technical High School: Thursday, February 19, 2015 (6:00pm-8:00pm) Thomas Dunn Learning Center: Sunday, February 22, 2015 (2:00pm-4:00pm) Webster University: Sunday, February 22, 2015 (2:00pm-4:00pm) For more information on FAFSA Frenzy Sites, please visit 23

24 FAFSA Checklist Complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) at to apply for federal, state, and college-based financial aid. Dependent students must include parents information on the FAFSA. To determine your dependency status, see dependency status worksheet. REQUIRED INFORMATION WHERE TO FIND IT 2014 Federal Income Tax Forms and, Personal records or call the IRS at If applicable, Schedule K-1 (Form 1065) allow 10 days processing. 2014W-2 Forms Personal records or contact your employer(s) or call the IRS at Personal Identification Numbers (PINs) Apply or request a duplicate Pin at immediate response Student s driver s license number Personal records Social Security Number (both student and parent) Personal records or call the Social Security Administration at Birth date (for both parents and student) Personal records Date you or your parents were married, separated, Personal records divorced, or widowed. Current (day of FAFSA filing) cash and Personal records or from your bank checking/savings account balances. Current investment values (stocks, savings bonds, Statements from the financial institution mutual funds, CDs) excluding parent s home and retirement plans. 24

25 Dependency Checklist Dependency Status Questions Answer the following questions to determine your dependency status for the FAFSA. Were you born before January 1, 1992? Yes No Are you married? Yes No Will you be enrolled in a master s or doctorate program at the beginning of the school year? Are you a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces or currently serving on active duty? Do you have children who will receive more than half of their financial support from you? At any time since you turned age 13, were both your parents deceased, were you in foster care, or were you a dependent or ward of the court? Are you or were you an emancipated minor as determined by a court in your state of legal residence? Are you or were you in legal guardianship as determined by a court in your state of legal residence? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No No No No No At any time on or after July 1, 2014, were you homeless? Yes No If you answer no to every question, you are dependent and must provide parental information on the FAFSA. If you answer yes to any question, you are independent and should not include parental information on the FAFSA. 25

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28 Teresa Stock Steinkamp, LMSW Supervisor for Student Support Programs The Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis p f Revised January

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