Mastering the FAFSA: the new application process explained

FAFSA application portal. | Carla Mendez, PantherNOW

Carla Daniela Mendez | Staff Writer 

During the shift from the spring semester to summer break, students face the recurring challenge of filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). 

Despite the temptation of leisure after a long semester, the impending threat of financial aid documentation calls for attention.

The changes to the FAFSA form this year has caused students to rethink their future academic ambitions. These changes have the potential to derail plans, causing some students to postpone decisions or even withdraw from academic activities altogether. 

The new form will be used to determine a student’s financial aid eligibility for the 2024-25 school year. Although the FAFSA usually becomes available on October 1 of each year, this year, the online form became fully open on January 8. This fourth month delay has delayed many students’ decision-day. 

Previously chastised for its lengthy questioning, the FAFSA underwent a major streamlining. As stated on the Federal Student Aid website, “Some applicants could answer as few as 18 questions, which could take less than 10 minutes.” 

Furthermore, a significant change allows students to list contributors, such as parents or guardians, who do not have a Social Security number (SSN) onto the form.

This update addresses the requirements of immigrant families and those awaiting SSN issuance, allowing for a more inclusive application.

There are two key reasons why the new FAFSA is easier to complete. First, information is now extracted straight from tax forms, removing the need for individual data entry.

Second, numerous questions have been deleted, including those on drug offenses and Selective Service registration, simplifying the procedure and increasing access to financial help.

Filling out the application:

Before you begin the application process, get your documents ready. That includes Social Security numbers, tax information, and financial statements. Both the student and contributing parents must create an FSA ID, which serves as a digital signature.

You must provide information on citizenship, marital status, and your financial situation. List at least one school you intend to attend.

Use tax information from the previous two years and report any income or benefits received. After signing the form, you will get a Student assistance Report (SAR) that includes your responses as well as a Student Aid Index (SAI) to determine your assistance eligibility.

Check the SAR for correctness and make any necessary adjustments. Certain applications are selected for verification which requires further paperwork.

Once processed, the information is delivered to the schools indicated on the list you provided. 

As students consider their academic and financial futures, understanding the current FAFSA process is an important part of their college journey. Despite any sort of potential hurdles to overcome, learning this form is essential to receive financial aid for your university career.

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