Filing Your FAFSA Form

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So What’s This Talk about the FAFSA Form

We reviewed the key elements of the FAFSA form in our previous posting.  Briefly, the FAFSA form is a U.S. Department of Education form that the student (and parents of dependent students) must file in order to qualify for federal student aid. It is used by colleges to determine your financial aid eligibility for all federal student loans, grants and many non-federal college scholarships.

You can submit the FAFSA form anytime after January 01 for the year you plan to attend school.  For 2008, your FAFSA form submission will cover aid requirements for the 2008-09 academic year (July 2008-June 2009). You should submit your FAFSA form as soon as possible.  Colleges have submission deadlines including many state aid agencies.  View our previous posting for more information

Required Documentation

You must have the following documents in order to file your FAFSA form properly.  Don’t underestimate the importance of these documents when filing your FAFSA form.  Leaving questions unanswered will delay your financial aid processing:

  • social security number and driver license
  • alien registration card (if you are not a U.S. citizen)
  • 2007 completed tax returns
  • W-2 and all 1099 forms
  • records of untaxed income, such as Social Security benefits, AFDC or ADC, child support, welfare, pensions, military subsistence allowances, and veterans benefits
  • current bank and mortgage statements
  • medical and dental expenses during the past year that was not covered by medical insurance
  • business and/or farm records
  • current investment records for stock, bonds, mutual funds, CDs, and money market accounts

About the tax return: you will need your tax return filed or about to be filed prior to completing the FAFSA form. You can file your FAFSA form and estimate your return; but you will need to come back and update the information if your filed return is different.

Note that the Federal Government will check your FAFSA form with your tax returns. Make sure the information.

 Who Must File the FAFSA Form
  • Every student who is requesting college financial aid. 
  • Parents of “dependent students”.
  • “Independent students” will file on their own behalf and their spouse, if married.  Parents of “independent students” do not need to file. 
  • Use this dependency status worksheet to determine whether you are a “dependent” or “independent” student.  

Filing Demonstration 

Let’s review the paper application for the FAFSA form.  We will use the paper application in this exercise as your worksheet.  You can then use the worksheet once you are ready to file your FAFSA form electronically: download the paper FAFSA form file

The application segregates the form using two colors:  the section colored in orange is for student information.  The section colored in purple is for the parent.  Let’s begin.

you can download to PRINT this posting: print MS word doc | print PDF file

FAFSA FORM STEP ONE

questions 1-13:

Questions 1-13 are self explanatory.  It is asking for the student’s name, address, date of birth, social security number, telephone and email address. 

TIP:
The FAFSA form notes that you can leave questions blank if they do not apply to you.  That’s true.  But we discourage it.  Anything left blank can delay your processing especially if it’s a question that most other students can answer. 

For example in question 11, it asks for the student’s driver license number.  This question may not apply to some students.  But to many other students, it does.  So leaving this question blank could possibly delay your processing.  If you don’t have a driver license number, enter your State ID number.  If you don’t have a state ID number, you might want to get one.

Double check your answers.  An incorrect entry, such as transposing your social security number, can kill your application.  Make sure your entries are correct before electronically submitting the form. 

Question 13 asks about your email address.  The government (and the colleges that receive your FAFSA form) will use this email address to communicate with you.  So make sure it is a correct, working address.  Communication will be required to process your aid request quickly. 

questions 14-22:

This group of questions asks about the student’s citizenship and residency status.

Question 16: applies to the student, not the parent, on the date of your FAFSA submission.

Question 17: if you are a single student, you can leave this question “blank”.

Question 18: this is the state where you legally reside.  Do not put the state where you were born or where you will attend school, unless the school is in the state where you legally reside.

Question 19-20: if your parents haven’t moved since January 01, 2003, or if you are a legal resident of the state since that time, mark “yes”.  If you moved into the state after January 01, 2003, enter the month and year you moved into the state or became a resident of the state where you currently reside.

Questions 21-22: male students age 18-25 must register with selective service in order to receive financial aid. 

questions 23-31:

Questions 23-27: do not leave these questions blank.  You must enter a number based on the notes in the application (paper application Page 2).

Question 26: student loans include Perkins, Stafford and PLUS loans.  Enter the number “3” for all available aid options.  This does not obligate you in any way. 

Questions 29-30: this information is used by some colleges to award scholarships to applicants who may be the first in their family to get a college degree.  Don’t leave it blank.  Some colleges award scholarships to families with certain education backgrounds.

Question 31: answer this question truthfully.  Don’t leave it blank.  Omitting the information if you have been convicted is a felony.  Note, the question asks whether you have been convicted for possession while you were receiving federal student aid.  It is not asking about convictions prior to receiving financial aid.

STEP TWO

(questions 32-34)

These questions are about the student only.  If the student is married, it includes the student and spousal information.  It is highly recommended that you have your tax returns completed or nearly completed and ready to file prior to answering the next questions.  It will avoid potential mistakes and filing delays.

question 32: don’t check answer “C”.  This is the wrong answer.  Student should always file a tax return even if you don’t have any income.  A filed 1040 form with zero income will add additional documentation that demonstrates financial aid. 

question 33: answer this question correctly.  Basically, if the student makes less than $100,000, does not itemize deductions, does not receive income from his or her own business or farm and does not receive alimony, he or she is eligible to file 1040A or 1040EZ.

question 34:  same as question 33.  If you filed form 1040, but could file 1040A or 1040EZ based on the parameters in question 33, answer “YES” to this question.

(questions 35-39)

You will take the information from your tax return and enter into each of boxes provided.  If the answer is zero, enter zero.  Don’t leave the question blank.

questions 35-37: enter information from your IRS form.  Don’t leave it blank.  If zero, enter $0.

questions 38-39: this information is from your W-2, or from your IRS Form 1040 – lines 7 + 12 + 18 + Box 14 of IRS Schedule K-1; or from 1040-A, line 7; or from 1040EZ, line 1.

(questions 40-42)

These are critical questions when estimating your eligible financial aid.  So answer the questions correctly.  We will discuss in our next BLOG how best to reduce the number.

You will need to turn to the worksheet on Page 5 of the paper application.  The left side of the worksheet (orange) is for the student and the student’s spouse if married.  The right side is for the parent if the parent is required to file this form (see STEP 3 below). 

question 40: (worksheet A, Page 5) most of these questions can be answered from your tax return.  It also includes welfare and social security benefits paid directly to the student.

question 41: (worksheet B, Page 5) most of this information can be gathered from your filed tax return or W-2 statement.  If the answer is zero, enter $0. 

question 42: (worksheet C, Page 5) these questions look at any other income or aid that has been paid to the student.

(questions 43-47)

Your goal is to minimize your worth by the time you file your FAFSA form.  We will discuss these ideas in our next BLOG posting.

question 43: your best answer should be $0 or close to $0.  We know that smart students are trying to save up for college.  But that money should be placed elsewhere instead of bank accounts. We will discuss this in our next posting.

question 44: investments include real estate (not the home you live in), stocks, bond and other securities (see page 3 on the paper application).  This line item will also include 529 college savings plans and 529 pre-paid tuition plans if these plans are owned by the student.

Important Note: If the student must report parental information on the FAFSA form, the value of all 529 plans owned by the parent must be reported as assets under the parent information – line 88.  If the 529 account is owned by a student who must report parental information, the value of the account is not reported.  If the account is owned by a student (or the student’s spouse) who is not reporting parental information, the value is to be reported as an investment for the student.

question 45: net worth does not include the farm or home where you reside.  See notes on Page 3 of the paper application.

questions 46-47: this question if for veteran’s of the military.  You can leave this blank if you (or your spouse) are not a veteran.

STEP 3

These next few questions determine your dependency status.  You must answer all questions.  If you answer “no” to all of the questions, your parents will need to complete the next section.

If you answer “yes” to any of the questions, your parents do not need to file.  However, some health-care related colleges may require parental information even if you answer “yes” to any of these questions.  Check your college for information.

(questions 54-55) see notes on Page 3 of the paper application.

STEP 4

Your parents will complete Step 4 if you answered “no” to all of the questions in Step 3. 

(questions 56-57)

These questions ask about your parents’ marital status on the date you file your FAFSA form. If your parents are separated or divorced, you must determine who the primary parent for this form is.

Who is the Primary Parent:
The primary parent is the parent you lived with more during the past 12 months.  If you did not live with more than one over the other, the primary parent is the parent that provided more financial support during the past 12 months.

If the primary parent is remarried as of today, then the stepparent’s information must be provided as the other parent for financial aid. 

If your parent is widowed or single, answer the questions about that parent. If your widowed parent is remarried as of today, your stepparent’s information must be entered as the other parent. 

Grandparents, foster parents and legal guardians are not considered parents on this form unless they have legally adopted you.   

(questions 58-65)

Enter your parents’ social security numbers, names and date of birth.

(question 66-78)

These are questions about your parents’ household and residency status

question 66: this includes yourself and your parents, even if you don’t live with them.  It also includes:

  • all siblings if the parents provide more than 50% support (even if the siblings don’t live with the parents)
  • any other persons if your parents provide more than 50% support (i.e., grandparents or relatives)
  • any new persons living with your parents where the parent will provide more that 50% support from July 1, 2008 and June 30, 2009 (i.e., babies on the way).  The more you can list within the household, the better.

question 67: this number should never be zero.  The number should include the student and any other students from question 66 who will be attending college from July 1, 2008 and June 30, 2009.

questions 68-70: enter your parents’ legal residency information.

questions 71-75: mark where appropriate if you or any in the household (question 66) receive benefits.  Answering these questions will not reduce your financial aid eligibility.

questions 76-78: same as the student: questions 32-34.

(questions 79-83)

The parent will take the information from their tax return and enter into each of boxes provided.  If the answer is zero, enter zero.  Don’t leave the questions blank.

questions 79-81: enter information from your IRS form.  Don’t leave it blank.  If zero, enter $0.

questions 82-83: this information is from your W-2, or from your IRS Form 1040 – lines 7 + 12 + 18 + Box 14 of IRS Schedule K-1; or from 1040-A, line 7; or from 1040EZ, line 1.

(questions 84-86)

You will need to turn to the worksheet on the paper application Page 5 to answer the next 3 questions.  The right side (purple) is for the parents’ information. 

question 84: (worksheet A, Page 5) most of these questions can be answered from your tax return.  It also includes welfare and social security benefits paid.

question 85: (worksheet B, Page 5) most of this information can be gathered from your filed tax return or W-2 statement.  If the answer is zero, enter $0. 

question 86: (worksheet C, Page 5) these questions looks at any other income or aid that has been paid to the parent and reported to the IRS in your adjusted gross income.

(questions 87-89)

These next questions get into the parents’ financial worth. The goal is to minimize the worth by the time you file the FAFSA form

question 87: your best answer should be $0 or close to $0.  But we know that any savvy parent will have savings.  Our recommendation is to place the money elsewhere instead of bank accounts prior to submitting the FAFSA form. We will discuss this in our next posting.

question 88: investments include real estate (not the home you live in), stocks, bond and other securities (see page 3 on the paper application).  This line item will also include 529 college savings plans and 529 pre-paid tuition plans.  Parent’s financial investments are given less weight when considering financial aid than the student’s financial investments.  We will review this in the next posting.

Important Note: If the student must report parental information on the FAFSA form, the value of all 529 plans owned by the parent must be reported as assets under the parent information – line 88.  If the 529 account is owned by a student who must report parental information, the value of the account is not reported.  If the account is owned by a student (or the student’s spouse) who is not reporting parental information, the value is to be reported as an investment for the student. 

question 89: net worth does not include the farm or home that you reside.  See notes on Page 3 of the paper application.

STEP FIVE

(questions 90-96)

This section should be completed only if the student marked “Yes” under Step 3 (Step 3 determined whether you are a dependent or independent student).  If you answered “no” to every question under Step 3, you can skip this section.

question 90: this includes yourself (the student) and your spouse, if married.  It also includes:

  • all siblings if you provide more than 50% support (even if the siblings don’t live with you)
  • any other persons if your you provide more than 50% support (i.e., grandparents or relatives)
  • any new persons living with you where you will provide more that 50% support from July 1, 2008 and June 30, 2009 (i.e., babies on the way).  The more you can list within the household, the better

question 91: this number should never be zero.  The number should include you, the student, and any other students from question 90 who will be attending college from July 1, 2008 and June 30, 2009.

questions 92-96: mark where appropriate if you or any in the household (question 90) receive benefits.  Answering these questions will not reduce your financial aid eligibility.

STEP SIX

(questions 97.a-h)

You will now list the colleges or universities that will receive your FAFSA information.  Colleges use this information to develop a financial aid package upon your acceptance. 

How Many Colleges:
if you submit your FAFSA form online, you can add up to 6 colleges.  You can add an additional four colleges by linking to this page: add or delete a school

The maximum number of college submissions is 10.  If you add more than 10, it will replace the original 10 that you had entered. 

It is best to enter the school code to avoid entering in the full name of the college and address.  You can find the school code at:  FAFSA school code listing

STEP SEVEN

(questions 98-99)

The signature area is for both student and parent. 

question 98: enter the date upon your submission of the FAFSA form.

question 99: both the student and parent must acknowledge (using your PIN) your signatures to the FAFAS form.

That’s it.  It’s a big form.  But if you and your parents have all of the documentation ready, it should be fairly easy to fill out.

Next Steps

Next week, we will discuss some tips to help reduce numbers that affect eligible financial aid.  In the meantime, complete the following steps to prepare yourself for the FAFSA form filing:

Step 1: Register for the FAFSA PIN

It will be required in order to file your FAFSA form electronically. The PIN is your online access to your FAFSA form account. You will use each year when you file your FAFSA form:
register for your FAFSA PIN

Step 2: Get Your Documentation Collected:

Assemble the documentation that you need in order to file the FAFSA form. This includes your bank accounts, tax returns, investments, etc. View the documentation that you need:
view documentation requirements

Step 3: Complete Your Tax Return for 2007

You will need your tax return filed or about to be filed prior to filing the FAFSA form. You can still file your FAFSA form and estimate your return; but you will need to come back and update the information if your filed return is different. Note that the Federal Government will check your FAFSA form with your tax returns. Make sure the information is exact. If no, it can delay and possible disqualify you from financial aid.

Step 4: Download a Copy of the FAFSA as Your Worksheet

You can use this form when you are ready to file electronically. Note that it is extremely important that you file correctly and answer every question to prevent delay in your FAFSA form processing:
download FAFSA form file

Step 5: Subscribe to our RSS feed

We discuss weekly about student financial aid tips and options. So make sure you get all of the information needed for financial aid success:
subscribe to this feed

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Categories: FAFSA Form Tips, Finance