You’ve learned a lot in high school. You can find X thanks to the Pythagorean Theorem, know where to place a comma after a conjunction, and read latitude lines on a map. In a lot of ways, your years spent studying have prepared you for your college years.

One thing that schools forget to mention is how to apply for federal student aid. It can seem overwhelming at first but filling out your application is a lot simpler than it sounds. The same goes for anyone who is continuing their schooling later in life. It’s really a simple process.

Getting Started

The first thing you’ll need to do is log onto the government website at fafsa.ed.gov. From there the site will walk you through the process step by step.

Creating Your ID

Your FAFSA ID is a username and password used to sign into your personal federal aid form. This is the first part of filling out the application. Make sure to write your information down so that you can use it again in the future. You will need to renew your application each academic year.

If you still live with your parents, then they will also need to create an ID since their tax information will be linked to the application. Afterwards, the site will ask you to create a federal student aid pin in case you need to return to the form at a later time. Write that down too!

Filling in the Blanks

There are two ways to sign in on the next page. Since you will be a student, simply click the box next to “enter the student’s FAFSA ID” to log in. Next, you will choose which academic year you are applying for.

Typically, you will choose the current and next year. However, if you attended college the previous year and did not fill out an application, then you can click on both years to complete each one.

Returning users will have the option to renew their federal student aid, which transfers information from the previous year. Since this will be your first time, you need to fill out the entire form.

It’s a little tedious, but you only need to complete this process one time. Plus, it’s mostly a bunch of fill in the blanks.

Student Demographics

On the next page, you can start filling out your basic information such as your name, date of birth, and social security number. Make sure to use the provided on-screen keypad to keep your information secure. Don’t use any nicknames or shorthand writing. Fill out each section fully and completely.

Selecting Your School

After you’ve entered your basic information, it’s time to pick out your school. Each college or university has its own special school code recognized by the government. If you don’t know yours, that’s perfectly okay.

Enter your school’s name into the provided box, and the code will pop up along with the school and its address on the right-hand side of the screen. Tick the box and select “add school” to continue.

If you are applying to multiple schools but have not yet been accepted, then add any college you’ve applied to. You can always go back and unselect them, but the school will not accept your aid if you will not be attending classes.

Dependency

The following questions determine whether or not you qualify to receive federal student aid. They include:

  • Your marital status
  • If you are working on a master’s or doctorate program
  • If you currently serve active duty in the U.S. armed forces
  • Your veteran status
  • Whether or not you have children that are dependents
  • If you were in foster care
  • Are you an emancipated minor?
  • If you have been a homeless youth
  • And several others

Don’t worry about your eligibility; chances are that you qualify for some amount of aid. Just answer honestly and prepare for the next section.

Parent Demographic

At some point, you will no longer need to provide information about your parents. Those just stepping out of high school or still living at home will have to, however. You might need them to fill this section out, as it includes their social security numbers and other personal information.

Finances

At this point, you will input information about your current financial status. Your parents will have to as well if they needed to fill out their demographic section. There are questions about assets, how much you have in the bank, and other similar topics.

Most importantly, this is where you enter your tax information from the previous year. The website makes it a simple three-click process. Click on the “link to the IRS” button, and you will be redirected to the Treasury Department’s website where you click on “I understand” to access your information.

On this screen, your information should have already populated. If not, you will have to enter your social security number again to pull up the information. “Click the transfer to FAFSA” button and your information will automatically be added to your application.

Remaining Questions

The rest of your free application for federal student aid is a series of, you guessed it, even more questions. The questions sometimes change, but you will usually be asked about:

  • Any conviction drug charges
  • If you have been convicted of a felony
  • If you or your family receives state/federal assistance
  • and other questions regarding government

These answers may change the total amount of aid you are eligible to receive, with some excluding you from receiving aid this year altogether. As you might have guessed, the only two that exclude you are being convicted of a felony or drug charges.

College can be a blast, but remember that being found guilty of possession, intent to sell, or any other drug-related charge will disqualify you from receiving aid for a set number of years. It’s something to keep in mind while completing your schooling.

Sign and Submit

The next screen is a simple signature, which your parents must also sign if they were required to fill out any information for you as a dependent. Click submit, and that’s it!

You will receive an email within a week to confirm whether or not you are eligible, and another shortly after saying that your funds are processing. If you need to go back and change any information, enter your ID and navigate to the page that needs to be fixed.

When to Fill Out The Form

On the final page, you will see a note about the Pell Grant and other scholarships that might be available to you. While most require some effort on your part, the Pell Grant is awarded to specific demographics and those who accel in their education.

It’s important to file early if you want to receive this grant since funds are limited. Plus, you do not have to pay any funds from the grant back after you graduate.

Furthermore, federal student aid is limited. States do run out of funding for students closer to the deadline. The earlier you complete your application, the better your chances of receiving the money you need.

Important Information

Keep in mind that you need to maintain a full-time schedule (12 credits) each semester if you want to continue to receive your federal aid. If you quit or graduate, you will need to start paying back the money you were loaned.

It is highly recommended that you do not accept any more money than you need for classes, books, and supplies. It might be tempting to use the extra cash on car maintenance, food, or new phone, but These funds are not meant to be spent on anything outside of schooling expenses. Plus, you will end up paying more than double the amount you took in interest fees.

Another important part of college is learning how to budget your finances. During this time, you should try to set aside a portion of your income to pay down your student debt. No interest is added until after you graduate, so putting money towards the loan now will save you money later in life.

Also, if you have any questions while filling out your form don’t hesitate to call the Federal student aid phone number. Dial 1-800-433-3243 for assistance, especially if you run into an error while applying.

Next Steps

Federal Student Aid is something you will apply for every academic year. Thankfully, the hard part is over. From here on out, all you need to do is renew your application.

This process is streamlined and only takes about 10 minutes. Since all of your information is in the system, you just have to go through and make any necessary changes. Aside from your income, which will fluctuate every year, simple things like moving to a new address will require you to update your information.

That’s all there is to it. You’re well on your way to starting your schooling and receiving a degree!

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