It’s that time of year again. As of October 1, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (or FAFSA) form is now available for the next 2021-2022 school year.
If you’re a college-bound senior in high school, now’s the time to fill out this standard application for federal aid money. The sooner you apply for aid, the sooner you’ll be able to start planning for your college career. This will help take a lot of the stress off, and ensure you don’t end up with a massive backlog of stuff to manage at the last minute.
Before you can complete the form, though, there are a few documents you’ll need to have handy. Let’s review the list of what you’ll need to ensure you’re ready to fill out the FAFSA and secure your student aid dollars.
#1. Your FAFSA ID
Your FAFSA ID is a basic username and password that you’ll use to log in to certain website operated by the US Department of Education. You—and at least one parent or guardian—will need to have FSA IDs to complete the application process on the official website (fafsa.gov). Your FAFSA ID is equivalent to a digital signature that you’ll need to complete the application, so you’ll want to be sure you keep it secure.
Creating your FAFSA ID is easy; however, you still want to get it done early, as that will prevent delays or mishaps later. You can check out this video on the official Federal Student Aid YouTube channel for step-by-step instructions to create your ID.
#2. Social Security Number
Your FAFSA ID is an important form of identification. However, you’ll need your Social Security Number (SSN) as well, as a secondary form of ID.
Your SSN is a unique, nine-digit number used by the federal government to identify you, and each individual born in the US has their own Social Security Number. The number is printed on your Social Security card, which your parents or guardian should keep in a secure location alongside other important documents, like your Birth Certificate.
While we’re on this point, make sure that you have access to your SSN, but don’t write down the number or carry your card with you. If someone gets access to your SSN, they could easily use it to commit identity fraud by taking out lines of credit in your name.
#3. Driver’s License Number
If you have a driver’s license, or other equivalent ID issues by the state government, you’ll need this to complete the FAFSA. In the state of Florida, your driver’s license number is a multi-digit combination of letters and numbers printed on the face of your license.
What if you don’t have a driver’s license or state ID? Not a problem; if you don’t have an ID like this, you can skip to the next document on the list.
#4. Last Year’s Tax Information & Other Financial Records
The loans and grants you’re eligible to receive will be partially determined based on your parents’ income (or your own, if you’re listed as an independent). For the 2021–22 FAFSA form, you’ll need to submit your financial records from 2019; the most recent year for which taxes have been assessed.
You might be able to pull this information up automatically during the application process by using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT). Of course, this may not necessarily be the case, or you might still need additional information. That’s why it’s a good idea to still have your (or your parents’) 2019 W-2 form and tax information handy.
If you (or your parent) have additional income that was not reported for tax purposes, you’ll need this information as well. Child support, money collected from interest on investments, and veterans’ benefits are all examples.
#5. Asset Information
You’ll need to have information handy about your total investments. This includes liquid assets like money in savings and checking accounts, plus investments like stocks, bonds, or real estate (not counting the home in which you live). Unlike with your taxes, you should report the current value of these assets, rather than their value from last year.
Be sure you report this information as accurately as possible. You should review the specifications carefully so you know what is or isn’t considered an asset to report. Many applicants either over- or under-report this information, which can impact the total amount of financial aid you’re offered.
#6. List of Schools to Apply to
Do you already have a list of potential schools you might attend next year? If so, the FAFSA system can automatically submit your information to the school(s) of your choice on your behalf. This will save you time and extra steps in the application process.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve been accepted, or even applied yet. The system can submit your information to as many as 10 schools of your choice, and there’s no penalty if you end up not applying to some of them. So, go ahead and include every college you’re considering at all.