Become Familiar with the FAFSA
Although students cannot submit the FAFSA before October 1, families should begin familiarizing themselves with the process by viewing information about the FAFSA at fafsa.ed.gov
Begin Gathering Financial Information
To complete the FAFSA, families will need documents that provide income and asset information. Refer to the FAFSA for a list of documents, including W-2 forms and tax returns that will be necessary.
Complete the FAFSA
Families should be familiar with the FAFSA and prepared with the records needed to complete it. Beginning with the 2017–18 FAFSA, students will be required to report income information from an earlier tax year. For example, on the 2017–18 FAFSA, students (and parents, as appropriate) will report their 2015 income information, rather than their 2016 income information. Also, remember to read all instructions carefully since most mistakes are made by misreading directions.
Photocopy Submitted Documents and Submit Before Earliest Deadline
Don't forget to keep a copies of college financial aid documents; families sometimes need these records later in the process. Be sure to submit the FAFSA and other required forms before the earliest or "priority" deadline for individual colleges. This allows students to receive maximum consideration for aid and minimizes any risk of receiving less or no aid at all. Once submitted, all colleges listed on the FAFSA will receive a student's information electronically.
Notify College Financial Aid Offices of Special Circumstances
While the FAFSA takes a snapshot of a family's finances, there are circumstances the form may not reflect. Families should contact individual financial aid offices to alert them to any special financial circumstances, such as unusual medical expenses or unemployment, which may affect their ability to pay for college.
Review Student Aid Report (SAR)
Four to six weeks after completing the FAFSA, students will receive a SAR, which summarizes data on the FAFSA and indicates the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Families should make sure the SAR is correct; if not, they should make changes and return it to the address provided. Colleges will receive any changes electronically.
Submit Verification Materials
When students are selected for verification, they must submit federal tax returns and other requested information to confirm data provided on the FAFSA. Promptly submitting verification will prevent a delay in processing a student's financial aid applications.
EARLY DECISION/ACTION APPLICANTSStudents with financial need who apply early decision or early action in the fall of the 12th grade year should be aware that financial aid deadlines might be the same as admission application deadlines.