What in the World is the FAFSA, and Why Should I Care?


Ryan Nguyen

Perhaps you’ve heard teachers or other students talking about the FAFSA. But the eponymous question is, what exactly is it, and why should you care? Well, for one, it’s basically free money the government gives to you for college, as well as offers of scholarships and loans from colleges.

The FAFSA can be filled out every year in order to receive federal money for college. On October 1, 2016, the 2017-2018 Free Application for Federal Student Aid opened. Students attending college immediately after high school should apply for the 2017-2018 school year FAFSA because that’s the first year they’ll be in college. It’s best to submit your FAFSA as soon as possible to receive the most money, but the 2017-2018 school year FAFSA will remain open until June 30, 2018.

Filling out the FAFSA is relatively straightforward, but the College and Career Center (CCC) in F-9 is always happy to help if you need it.

To fill out the FAFSA, you’ll need:

  1. your Social Security Number (SSN)
  2. your parent/guardian’s SSNs
  3. your Alien Registration Number (for non-U.S. citizens)
  4. your’s as well as your parent/guardian’s most recent federal income tax returns, W-2 forms, and other records of money earned. (However, you may be able to digitally retrieve your family’s tax information by plugging in their SSNs)
  5. bank statements and records of investments (if applicable)
  6. records of untaxed income (again, if applicable)
  7. your’s as well as your parent/guardian’s FSA ID’s to sign in to the FAFSA website. You can create ID’s in just a few minutes on the FAFSA website if needed.

There are some extremely important things to remember when filling out the FAFSA, as well as some common mistakes that students unaccustomed to the FAFSA can easily make.

When filling out the FAFSA, you’ll be asked to list some colleges. These colleges are colleges that either you’re currently applying to or where you are considering applying. Don’t worry — you can always change or fix information on your FAFSA at a later time. All you need to do is wait until the last FAFSA you’ve submitted is processed (it should take one to three business days), go to the “My FAFSA” page, scroll down, and click “Make FAFSA Corrections.” Easy as that!

The nice thing about this year’s FAFSA is that just by putting in your parent/guardian’s’ SSNs, all of his/her tax information can be automatically inserted into the FAFSA by the IRS!

Beginning with this year’s FAFSA, students and their families must report their tax information from an earlier tax year; this year, families’ 2015 tax information must be reported. The nice thing about this year’s FAFSA is that just by putting in your parent/guardian’s’ SSNs, all of his/her tax information can be automatically inserted into the FAFSA by the IRS! In previous years, students actually had to painstakingly type in all their tax information into the FAFSA. Thanks to this new feature, there’s a much lower chance of human error when inputting your tax information.

In order to make sure you receive your Oregon Promise, i.e. the state grant program covering some or all of the tuition at an Oregon community college for eligible high school graduates and GED recipients who enroll in an Oregon community college within six months of graduation (*), make sure you list a community college (e.g. Portland Community College) when listing the colleges you might apply to on the site.

Portland_Community_College_Willow_Creek_Center_-_Hillsboro,_Oregon.JPG

Portland Community College Willow Creek Center

Even if you’re one hundred percent sure you’re attending some Prestigious Far Off University™, even if you’ve already started planning out what your dorm room is going to look like, list a community college. In most cases, it won’t affect the aid you receive and is a good safety net just in case financial disaster lurks right around the corner.

There are various FAFSA scams out there, sorry to say, that force uninformed students to pay for their FAFSA!

Always double-check to make sure the website you’re on has a .gov in the URL. There are many FAFSA scams out there, sorry to say, that force uninformed students to pay for their FAFSA! What they’re really doing is sending your information to another person who submits your FAFSA for you. Eliminate the middleman and go to fafsa.ed.gov. After all, FAFSA does have the word “free” in it — keep it that way for yourself.

Screen Shot 2016-11-12 at 4.08.11 PM.png

The official FAFSA page.

Another simple mistake that many students inadvertently do (including your humble author here) is skipping fields that do not apply to them. This means not listing a value in fields asking for the “Student’s Net Worth of Current Investments,” for example. The correct thing to do is to enter a value of zero (0) in the box. Otherwise, the people behind the FAFSA think you’ve simply forgotten to answer the question, which can affect the financial aid given to you.

On Tuesday, November 15, 2016, from 6 to 8pm, students and their families can receive help completing the FAFSA on AHS FAFSA completion night.

Have any other questions? The CCC in F-9 is always happy to help. On Tuesday, November 15, 2016, from 6 to 8 p.m., students, and their families can receive help completing the FAFSA on AHS FAFSA completion night. Pizza and childcare are provided. Students can RSVP following the link below:

AHS’s FAFSA Completion Night!

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