SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA is now open, and experts suggest you complete it as soon as possible.
We spoke with Kyle Powers, Financial Advisor with the Fiduciary Group, about how to get the most out of your application and make the process easier.
Put simply, the government uses the FAFSA to determine a student’s financial need by calculating his or her family’s expected contribution. From there, students become eligible for government financial aid.
“So that could be Pell grants, which are need based and don’t require repayment, but it could also be federal student or parent loans,” Powers said.
To make the application process faster, Powers suggests you pull together a few documents before you sit down and complete the form.
That includes proof of income, like your W2 or 1099 forms, bank statements, investment accounts and previous tax returns.
“The IRS has made it a little easier with what they call their data retrieval tool, or DRT, and that allows you to pull your tax returns into the FAFSA.”
Also, make sure you do some research ahead of time so you know exactly what the application is asking you for.
“Understanding the definitions of the terms within the FAFSA. This is an area that can be mistaken very easily. There’s very specific definitions for things like household size, what assets need to be included, which are reportable vs. nonreportable.”
Powers shared two of the biggest mistakes people make when filling out the FAFSA.
“The first mistake is not completing the FAFSA, because if you don’t do it, you’ll never have a chance at those federal resources, but the second mistake is not completing it as early as possible. There are quite a few need based or financial aid that is first come, first serve. And if you don’t apply early, you won’t get it, simply because it’s not there, not because you don’t qualify for it.”
Again, it’s important to complete the FAFSA early on. Part of the reason for that is because multiple deadlines exist. In general, the deadline is 11:59 p.m. central time on June 30. However, different states, and even different universities, are allowed to have different deadlines. It’s important to check in with the financial aid office of whatever colleges you plan on applying to to make sure you know their FAFSA deadlines.