NEWARK, Del.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--With the changing leaves and autumn chill come a few staples students can count on: fresh notebooks, fall festivals, and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Students heading to college next year, returning college students, and grad students can get started on the FAFSA for academic year 2019-20 on Oct. 1, 2018. Completing it is the most important step to qualify for $150 billion in financial aid including grants, work-study, and federal student loans.
Completing the FAFSA on or soon after Oct. 1 is particularly critical because some aid is awarded first-come, first served. In addition, schools use it to put together financial aid packages, states use it to determine eligibility for state aid, and it is required for many scholarship applications. Sallie Mae, the nation’s saving, planning, and paying for college company, has created tips, tools, and resources, including an infographic, to help families prepare for the FAFSA, available at salliemae.com/fafsa.
“Students are just getting back to school, but for high school seniors and returning college students, the time to start thinking about next year really starts now,” said Martha Holler, senior vice president, Sallie Mae. “The simple act of completing the FAFSA can translate into thousands of dollars to pay for college, but it’s critical to start the process early so you don’t miss out.”
Sallie Mae offers the following tips to help students and their parents make the most of the FAFSA experience:
- Be first in line – Again, some financial aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, or from programs with limited funds. The earlier families fill out the FAFSA, the better the chance to be in line for that aid. Additionally, those who complete and submit the FAFSA on or soon after Oct. 1 will receive their Student Aid Report sooner and may receive financial aid award letters from schools earlier.
- Bring the basics – Before beginning the application, get prepared. Both parents and students should create a username and password — a Federal Student Aid ID — and gather Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, bank statements, 2017 tax returns, and W-2 forms. Having this information ready before Oct. 1 can expedite the process.
- Get connected – New this year, students and families can complete the FAFSA using the myStudentAid app on any Android or Apple device. Regardless of what device you use, remember that it’s always free, so watch out for sites that charge fees or make promises that sound too good to be true. Students can reduce the risk of identity theft by keeping their Federal Student Aid ID confidential, and any suspected fraudulent account activity should be reported immediately.
- Sync up – Using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool can expedite the process by automatically syncing and populating tax return information into the FAFSA. Note: the IRS Data Retrieval Tool is currently only available for those completing the FAFSA at fafsa.gov.
- File every fall – Complete the FAFSA as a high school senior, and every year in college, even graduate school. Filing a new FAFSA each year is the only way to remain eligible for federal student aid, and the amount of aid can vary year-over-year.
To watch Sallie Mae’s “Beginner’s Guide to FAFSA” video, get additional details about completing and submitting the FAFSA, visit salliemae.com/fafsa.
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.