FAFSA season begins on October 1st, 2017. If you have older children who recently started college, this may be earlier in the year than you remember. The Federal government is now allowing families to apply three months earlier than in previous years. And applying online is easier than ever!

Students and their parents can now apply for financial aid during the fall of their senior year instead of waiting until January 1st. This aligns the financial aid application process with fall college application activities. It also gives families more time to respond to additional information requests from colleges, to understand their financial aid options, and make plans to work or save more if needed.

In prior years, parents were anxious about completing the FAFSA in January or February since most wouldn’t have their taxes filed until April 15th, and had to enter estimated figures on the application. Starting this October 1, applying for financial aid is easier since the income and tax information requested on the application is for the 2016 tax year – so your taxes are already done! Woohoo! Even better, when you are filling out the FAFSA you can automatically import your info from the IRS database into your online FAFSA form. Using the online IRS data retrieval option is quick, simple, and secure.

Completing the FAFSA makes such a difference for the student in your household. It is used for determining federal student aid eligibility, state aid, institutional grants, and for many private scholarships. The process can seem daunting, but here are 5 steps to help you complete the FAFSA in less than 30 minutes.

  1. Create an FSA ID Account

    The FSA ID is a username and password unique to you and used to e-sign the FAFSA. You and your student each need to create your own FSA ID at https://fsaid.ed.gov. Only one FSA ID is needed for parents because only one parent needs to sign. Have your Social Security Number and Driver’s License handy to complete the requested information. It only takes 5 minutes to set this up, including creating security questions and answers to use in the future if you ever forget your password (like I do all the time).

  2. Start the Application Online

    The free FAFSA application is available at the official government site: www.fafsa.ed.gov. On average, it takes about 26 minutes to complete the FAFSA online.

  3. Locate Your 2016 W-2 Forms

    If you did not have to file taxes in 2016, having a copy of your W-2 forms or other records of income earned will be helpful in completing the FAFSA. If you have completed your 2016 tax return, the IRS Data Retrieval Tool will simply transfer your 2016 income and tax information into the FAFSA form.

  4. Select the Schools You Want

    Students can choose up to 10 colleges they plan to attend to send a FAFSA. The schools receive the necessary information to calculate financial aid eligibility, so even if your student has not applied or been accepted yet, it doesn’t hurt to add the school!

  5. Sign the Application

    Don’t forget to sign the application! It will be incomplete if it is not signed by both student and parent. You can e-sign it using your FSA ID. The confirmation page will let you know when it is submitted. If there is more than one student in your family, you will have the option to transfer parent information into another FAFSA from the confirmation page.

Need Additional Help?

Still need help? You can get in person assistance by attending one of the Arizona College Goal FAF$A workshops. A list of locations, dates and times are available at collegegoal.az.gov/fafsa-workshop-events. New sites are continually being added, so check this page often.

The best resource for more information about Federal Student Aid programs is www.studentaid.ed.gov. You can visit the website to see what questions are trending and learn about any new changes to the application process each year.

Don’t Miss Your College’s Priority Filing Deadline!

Ask your preferred colleges and universities what their priority dates are to ensure your student meets any upcoming deadlines. Listed below are the filing dates for Arizona’s three public universities.

School Priority FAFSA Filing Dates