Financial Aid 101: Helping Students Master the FAFSA

Reading Time: 4 min read

Mark your calendars: the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for the 2021-2022 school year is due June 30th! That means that if your students want any federal financial aid for this year, they need to make sure they get the form submitted ASAP. 

You might be thinking, “It’s mid-2022! Shouldn’t we be looking at the 2022-2023 school year by now?” Well, yes, but any student that is enrolled before July 1, 2022, is eligible for aid in the ‘21-’22 year. Rolling enrollment schools, we’re looking at you! If students don’t fill out a FAFSA, they could miss out on valuable funds, lowering their overall aid package. 

Here are tips to ready you and your student for each step of the process, turning the FAFSA from a headache into an opportunity to connect with your students and save your office from potential corrections down the line.

BEFORE: Gather All Documentation

Students will need the following information and documents handy. Dependent students will need to collect this information from their parents as well.

  • Social Security number
  • Driver’s license or Alien Registration number (if you are not a U.S. citizen)
  • Previous Federal tax return and documents for you (and your spouse, if you are married), and for your parents, if you are a dependent student
  • Records of untaxed income, such as child support received, interest income, and veterans noneducation benefits, for you
  • Financial records such as bank statements
  • Statements of investment earnings or other assets that impact your income

If the student has already started the FAFSA or has an account from the previous year, they should also have their login information in a safe place and ready to go. 

PRO TIP: Encourage your students to use the IRS’ Data Retrieval Tool: it pulls previous tax return information for the FAFSA for both students and parents. This can eliminate errors and majorly cut down on the time it takes to fill out the form!

DURING: Filling Out The FAFSA

The best way to make sure the FAFSA is filled out correctly? If possible, get the student into the office for completion. While you can’t fill the form out for them, sitting with them through the process can help avoid costly mistakes and frustration. This interaction not only guarantees the form is filled out correctly and submitted, but it gives your office an opportunity for a little extra counseling time.

PRO TIP: If the student is a dependent student or has a spouse, invite them to attend as well. Looping in all family members that have a financial interest in the student will help reinforce the value of the education your institution is providing and can help with decision making and retention.

AFTER: Check For Errors & FILE!

The most common error on the FAFSA is conflicting information. Most often this is in what seems like a simple count of members in the household: but for some students, it’s not that easy. Check the FAFSA and confirm they have accounted for any specific or complicated family situations such as caring for an elderly parent or divorce. Make sure you and the student are familiar with the definitions in the FAFSA directions and have properly accounted for all household members.

There are many methods to file the FAFSA.

PRO TIP: Mistakes happen! We can help. Contact us to perform the actual verification of the student’s file. By performing the actual verification for your institution, we prevent conflicting information and help move your students through the process of receiving aid more efficiently.

The deadline is coming quickly, but there is still time to gather necessary information, submit the FAFSA, and build a stronger connection with your students!

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