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How to Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

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By: Gen and Kelly Tanabe
Founders of SuperCollege and authors of 13 books on college planning.

Gen and Kelly Tanabe can answer your question in Expert Advice.




Students, have your information handy!

It will take one to two hours to complete the FAFSA if you have all the necessary information, including your tax return, on hand. You will need the following key information and documents:

Student data:

  • Social Security number

  • Driver's license number

  • Citizenship and state residency

  • Alien registration card (if you are not a U.S. citizen)

  • Prior year's W-2 forms and other records of money earned

  • Prior year's federal income tax return—IRS Form 1040, 1040A, 1040EZ, 1040 Telefile, foreign tax return or tax return for Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Marshall Islands or the Federated States of Micronesia

  • Asset information, including bank accounts, stocks, bonds, trust funds, etc.

  • Education history

  • Major course of study

  • Marital status

  • Spouse's income

  • Dependency status

  • Interest in student loans and work-study

  • List of schools the student is interested in attending




Parents, have the necessary information ready.

Parent data:

  • Federal income tax return. If you haven't completed your tax return by the time you fill out the FAFSA, use W-2 forms and other supporting documents. You may use estimates and update later.

  • Past year's untaxed-income records—Social Security, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, welfare or veterans benefit records

  • Current bank statement

  • Current business and investment mortgage information

  • Business and farm asset and balance sheet records

  • Asset information, including bank accounts, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc.

  • Marital status

  • Level of education

  • State residency

  • Age




Know where to get more help.

If you need help completing the FAFSA, visit the U.S. Department of Education web site at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov or call 800-4-FED-AID. The web site will take you step by step through the entire process. You may also want to contact the financial aid offices at a few local colleges since many hold free workshops to help students complete the FAFSA.




Final Thoughts ...

Filling out the FAFSA may ruin your plans for Saturday morning. But it won't be impossible. The hardest part may be gathering all the information you need. Once you actually start filling out the forms, you'll be surprised at how quickly it goes. And remind yourself that by taking the time to complete this application, you're making sure that you get every dime in financial aid that you deserve.




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