Tips for Completing the FAFSA
If you’re considering applying for financial aid, you probably know you need to complete the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid. What is the FAFSA? How does it help you?
Required by the U.S. Department of Education, the FAFSA helps students and families identify what financial aid they qualify for by determining how much an individual or family can afford to pay for higher education. If you are applying for loans, student grants, or work study, you must fill out the FAFSA each year you are in school.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, about 85% of first-time, full-time undergraduate students receive some form of financial aid. (At Azusa Pacific, 95% receive financial aid.) To get the best financial aid offer possible, it’s important to complete the FAFSA early so you can see what federal, state, and institutional aid is available to help you finance your college degree. You can start the FAFSA as early as October 1. The final date to submit the FAFSA for Cal Grant recipients is March 2.
When to Submit the FAFSA
See why it is best to submit the FAFSA early and how it can help you secure the best financial aid.
Here are a few tips to help you complete the FAFSA:
- Fill out FAFSA whether or not you think you qualify for financial aid.
Even if you think you may not qualify, complete the FAFSA. You may find that some aid is available to you, plus, if your financial situation changes, it’s much harder to get aid later on if you have not completed the FAFSA. (See how the FAFSA app is helping make the process easier.)
- Fill out the form completely.
Double check that you haven’t skipped any sections, as leaving too many blank fields could cause a miscalculation or rejected application. If you are unsure of an answer, enter a ‘0’ (zero) or ‘Not Applicable.’
- Use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT).
Use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DTR) to input your tax information on the FAFSA. This is the fastest, most accurate way to input your tax return information into the FAFSA.
- Double check your information.
Errors may lead to delays or missed opportunities for financial aid. Double and triple check crucial information like your Social Security number, driver’s license number, and spelling of name and address.
- Unsure of something? Ask questions.
Undergraduate Admissions and Undergraduate Enrollment Services Center are available to help you navigate the financial aid process. The FAFSA website also offers tools to help you complete the form.
Be sure to have the following on hand before you start:
- APU’s School Code: 001117
- Driver’s license
- Social Security number
- W-2 forms and other records of money earned in the previous year
- Federal income tax returns (or your parents’ returns, if you are a dependent student)
- Current bank statements and other investment records (business, stocks, bonds, etc.)
5 Ways to Make the FAFSA Application Process Less Stressful
Being prepared and knowing what to expect will help you complete the FAFSA and get the most out of it.
You’re ready to begin! Follow this helpful list from the U.S. Department of Education as you complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, and check out the FAFSA YouTube channel. For more tips, visit MoneyGeek's Ultimate Guide to the FAFSA.
View additional resources on financial aid and preparing for college: