NEWARK, Del.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The Oscar buzz is building, and highly anticipated movies are coming soon to a theater near you, but for college-bound students and their families, it’s time to start gearing up for a different kind of premiere: the official launch of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA is the free ticket to all forms of federal financial aid, including grants, loans, and work-study programs, as well as certain state-based aid.
With deadlines quickly approaching, and significant changes to the FAFSA on the horizon, Sallie Mae – the nation’s saving, planning and paying for college company – today released its “Reel Guide to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid,” which features movie-inspired tips to help families navigate the process and star in their own award-winning FAFSA production. Here’s what students and families need to know:
FAFSA and Furious (Know Your Deadlines)
Some federal- and state-based aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, so families should race to file the FAFSA on Jan. 1 to reserve their spot in line. Families should complete a FAFSA every year the student is in college. Deadlines vary by state; for a complete list, visit FAFSA.gov.
The FAFSA Games (Do Your Homework)
The odds of completing the FAFSA will be ever in your favor if you gather all necessary information first. That includes Social Security and driver’s license numbers, parents’ Social Security numbers and birth dates, 2015 income tax returns (or estimates), W-2 forms, and bank statements.
He’s Just Not That into FAFSA (Assume Nothing)
Thinking about bypassing the FAFSA because your family’s income and savings are too high? Think again. Nearly every student is eligible for some form of financial assistance. Again, families should complete the FAFSA every year the student is in college.
FAFSA Fiction (Avoid Scams)
Just because it says FAFSA doesn’t mean it is FAFSA. Watch out for scams. Filing the FAFSA is absolutely free at FAFSA.gov. Create a Federal Student Aid ID there, and get started.
FAFSA Maguire (List Your Schools)
If you’re looking for schools to show you the money, be sure to list them on your application. Start with state schools first to be in line for eligible state aid, and then add schools with the earliest federal aid deadlines.
You’ve Got FAFSA (File Electronically)
Include an email address with your FAFSA application, and you’ll receive your Student Aid Report (SAR) within three to five days. The SAR will explain eligibility for financial aid and next steps.
The FAFSA Awakens (What’s New)
This is the last year students and families will have to wait until January to file a FAFSA. For the 2017-18 academic year, students will be able to submit a FAFSA as early as Oct. 1, 2016, and use a 2015 tax return. So that means students and families will complete a FAFSA for academic year 2016-17 beginning in January and, come October, file a FAFSA for academic year 2017-18. In other words, families will complete two FAFSAs in 2016 using the same tax information, so now’s the time to gather all the information and keep it handy.
“Filing the FAFSA may interest you about as much as standing in line for ‘Star Wars’ for hours, but if college is in your future, it’s the most important thing you can do to get federal or state money to help pay for your education,” said Martha Holler, senior vice president, Sallie Mae. “Yoda says there is no try, there is only do or not do – and that especially applies to the FAFSA. So if you are headed to college next year, fill it out and submit it as close to Jan. 1 as possible.”
When FAFSA Met Sallie (Additional Resources)
In addition to the “Reel Guide to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid,” Sallie Mae has a new FAFSA video to help families through the process. For more FAFSA-related information and updates, visit Salliemae.com/FAFSA or follow us on Twitter @SallieMae.
When it comes to paying for college, Sallie Mae recommends following the 1-2-3 approach: first, maximize money that does not need to be repaid, such as scholarships and grants; second, explore federal student loans; and, third, consider a responsible private education loan.
Sallie Mae (NASDAQ: SLM) is the nation’s saving, planning, and paying for college company. Whether college is a long way off or just around the corner, Sallie Mae offers products that promote responsible personal finance, including private education loans, Upromise rewards, scholarship search, college financial planning tools, and online retail banking. Learn more at SallieMae.com. Commonly known as Sallie Mae, SLM Corporation and its subsidiaries are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.