It’s important for every college applicant to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Federal grant money, loans, and scholarship money all depend on the information in your FAFSA.

Do not let the expense of college stop you from applying or think you and your family make too much money for financial aid. No matter your economic status, there is a possibility of receiving grants and low-interest loans.

According to a study by NerdWallet, college students left as much as $2.6 billion in free money on the table in 2018 by failing to file a FAFSA.

While the government began taking FAFSA applications on October 1, 2019, for the 2020–2021 school year, that is not a deadline. You can apply up to June 30, 2020. But the sooner you apply, the better. Some schools have preferred application dates. New England College, for example, prefers the FAFSA applications be completed by March 1.

Why Apply for FAFSA? 

The FAFSA is used by both the federal government and post-secondary schools to determine eligibility for loans and financial aid. The application includes financial information such as household income, cash, and savings. These numbers are analyzed by the federal Department of Education to determine how much a family can contribute toward the cost of college.

The information is used by colleges and universities to determine how much financial aid they will award applicants, and students can list up to 10 schools where they want their completed FAFSA sent.

What You’ll Need for Your FAFSA Application 

The FAFSA is completed through an online application and will require you to gather a number of records before you get started.

The process begins with the creation of an FSA ID number, which you can do here.

The documents you need include 2018 tax returns for you and your parents (if you are still a dependent), driver’s license, social security card, financial records for you and your parents, and a list of schools you want to attend.

The information they will ask for includes:

  • FSA ID number
  • Social security number
  • Driver’s license number (skip this if you don’t have one)
  • Amount of money you earned as reported on your 2018 tax return
  • Amount of money earned by your parents as reported on their 2018 tax return (this applies if you are still a dependent). If your parents are divorced, this applies to the parent you lived with the most in the past year.
  • Amount of money you and your parents have in cash, savings, and investments.
  • List of up to 10 schools where you intend to apply. It’s not necessary to have the school code, but you can look it up here and skip the step of searching for the code while filling out the FAFSA. New England College’s code is 002579.

Don’t Wait to Apply 

It’s important to remember that students can apply through June 30, 2020; however, some states consider FAFSA applications on a first-come, first-served basis for any state student aid. Those states, according to the federal government, are as follows:

  • Alaska
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Kentucky
  • Nevada
  • North Carolina
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Texas
  • Vermont
  • Washington

Some schools consider financial aid on a “first come, first served” basis as well. It is important to understand the financial aid decision process at each school you are considering.

Applying to Schools 

Your financial information is sent directly to each school you list on the FAFSA, but that does not mean you have applied. Check with each school to learn each school’s admission application deadlines. Some schools have different application deadlines. They include:

  • Early decision. This typically means you apply earlier, and if you are accepted, you agree to attend that school. This is a binding agreement, so be 100% sure you want to attend a school before applying as an early decision candidate.
  • Early action. Early action means you apply early and also learn early if you are accepted. This is not a binding agreement.
  • Regular deadlines. The deadline by which everyone must apply.
  • Rolling deadlines. In some cases, schools will have rolling deadlines instead of a fixed deadline. This means they will continue accepting applications as long as openings are available. New England College has rolling deadlines.

It’s critical to visit each school’s website or contact the admission office to get details on how the school’s admission deadlines work.

The last step for the FAFSA is to double and triple check to make sure all information is accurate. For example, a common mistake is not matching financial numbers with those reported on tax returns.

Filling out the FAFSA takes time and effort, but it’s well worth it. For more tuition and financial aid services at New England College, check out our Student Financial Services.