The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) isn’t necessarily a student loan, but an application for financial aid made up of scholarships and grants that the government awards to students based on their needs.
Unfortunately, many students who would qualify for FAFSA funds don’t even complete the application. A 2018 analysis found that $2.6 billion in financial aid went unclaimed in the 2018–19 school year. That means more than 600,000 students were eligible but didn’t claim their fair share of FAFSA grants and scholarships.
Simply filling out the application is half the battle. Of course, filling out the FAFSA application incorrectly could cost you, or forgoing the application altogether could cost you, since the average amount awarded hovers around $3,900. Not bad for about a half-hour of work, right? If you’re getting ready to fill out the FAFSA, follow these tips to make it quick, painless, and worth your time.
The FAFSA application requires you to prove your family’s financial situation, so make sure you have all of the documents you need before you start the application. That way, you won’t have to stop, start, and track down last year’s tax returns. Here’s what you should have on hand:
- Your social security number (and your parents’)
- A Federal Student Aid Identification Number (FSA ID). This is the number that you’ll use throughout the application process. You can get one here.
- Your driver’s license or another form of government-issued ID
- If you’re younger than 24, your and your parents’ 2018 tax returns (read this to know why)
- Bank account statements and any other asset records
- Records of untaxed income such as child support, disability benefits, and health savings accounts
- The code for each school you want to apply to. You can find them here.