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August 26th, 2019

fafsa advice story photoStudents need to get registered with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid to discover what type of financial aid they may receive from federal programs. Courtesy photoELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times


With many current high school seniors preparing to enter college in the fall and planning out everything from their meal plan to their dorm assignment, one thing those students and their parents should be working on (if not already) is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) forms. 

“The first step is they need to establish an FSA ID through the Department of Education and then they need to submit the FAFSA, those are the two major things to do,” Seward County Community College Director of Financial Aid Donna Fisher said. “To get that ID established they'll need to go through to and then the student and their parents must apply for a user ID. And in order to do that they must have an e-mail address and the social security number, and that ID is what they'll use to file the FAFSA stuff electronically. Then to complete the FAFSA, they'll need to use their 2017 income information and they must carefully and completely fill out all the questions before submitting. As they're going through everything, the students must also know their parents' birthdays, they'll need separation/divorce dates if their parents are divorced or separated, they'll also need their 2017 income tax information. They'll also need to know if their parents own a business or farm, which can get really detailed, but must people should be able to get through that if they have that information.”

And especially with first-time applicants, Fisher said her office gets asked some questions pretty frequently. 

“The most common question we get is how to establish that ID, and we also get asked which year's income tax information is needed,” Fisher said. “A lot of times we get told about special circumstances and how the income doesn't really match the true picture of what's going on with a certain family, so then we advise them to talk to the financial aid office so those revisions can be taken into account.”

Fisher also said it is better to get the FAFSA filled out sooner rather than later. 

“The FAFSA stuff actually opened up Oct. 1, so they've been able to access the 2019-2020 FAFSA forms for a few months now,” Fisher said. “But to move forward, they need to know that has to be done by July 15 so that student can officially know what aid they'll be getting by the time they go to school because if we get it after that, we can't guarantee everything will be processed on time, because it is a somewhat lengthy process. There may be state money available only on a first come, first served basis. Another reason is it will give that student a more solid idea of the money they'll receive and it could help relieve some of that burden having that information. We actually saw quite a bit of that come in during Christmas break, a lot of that came in. I would say about now, since people are getting their income tax return stuff, they'll think it's this year's income tax information they'll need, but it's really last year's they need, so they really need to be sure they have all the right information.”

And after the FAFSA is completed, Fisher said the student and their parents will receive notice of either more information being needed or the reward letter directly from the college. Fisher again emphasized those filling out the application must use their 2017 tax information and cautioned to take their time and make sure everything is accurate on the application. 

“We also want to emphasize filling out the FAFSA takes time, it's not something that can be rushed through, so be sure to take your time and make sure everything's accurate,” Fisher said. “Both the parent and student can do their parts individually and then once it's completed, submit it. So take your time filling everything out but also get it done as soon as possible to get it submitted on time.”

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