The start of October brings cooler temperatures, visits to the local pumpkin patch, scary movies, and all-you-can-eat candy on Halloween. October also marks a spooky but important date for those planning to attend college for the 2021-2022 school year: the opening of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
Do you have a college student or a high school senior in your household, or are you a college student yourself? If so, October 1st marked an important date for those who are planning to attend college or are currently enrolled in college. The FAFSA application for the 2021-2022 school year officially opened up to applicants at the start of October. Students should prepare or begin to prepare to file their FAFSA form as soon as possible. The FAFSA is an online application that allows students to request federal student aid, such as grants, loans, and work-study programs. Students should apply as early as possible in order to be considered for grants and loans, as some school and state funds are limited and often awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. Even if you don’t believe you will qualify for federal aid, you should still file a FAFSA application because you may be eligible for loans that are not based on income. Also, some schools require students to file a FAFSA application for merit aid.
It was not too long ago that I was a student myself and filed my FAFSA applications. It can be quite the blood-curdling task, but don’t let the process scare you! Start by gathering the required information and documents now, so that you are prepared. If you haven’t already, you will need to create a Federal Student Aid (FSA) account at fafsa.gov. If you are a dependent on another person’s tax return, your guardian will also be required to create an account as well. You will need your social security number and your 2019 tax records, such as your federal income tax return and W-2s. If you filed your 2019 federal income tax return, you may be eligible to import your tax information into your FAFSA application by utilizing the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, which proved to be the easiest option when I filed my applications. If applicable, you will also need bank statements and records of investments and untaxed income, such as child support or welfare benefits received. Parents of dependent students will also need to submit the information mentioned above.
As you can see, submitting the FAFSA application requires a great deal of information regarding your personal and family financials. This can be overwhelming, but if you begin to gather the necessary documents now, the task won’t be so haunting. In my experience, you can also reach out to your college with questions, they were always more than happy to help me with the FAFSA application process.
Remember: you can’t trick or treat ‘til your FAFSA application is complete! Don’t let October pass by without filing or starting the process of filing yours or your dependent student’s FAFSA application.
Published in the Victoria Advocate
Carlee H. Gibbs, CPA is a staff accountant for Keller & Associates CPAs, PLLC.