No more confusion for FAFSA

Analicia Haynes, Administration Editor

As another year creeps around the corner, students drag themselves back to school after three weeks filled with eggnog and champagne and begin preparations to pay off the next school year by filling out their FAFSA.

Evolving into a sort of routine, the FAFSA stalks students as they frantically rush to file their application and anxiously wait for the seal of approval from the financial aid office.

Despite being a similar process that most students undergo, filing the FAFSA can be confusing.

Sarah Wulf, a senior special education major, said if it were not for her mom, she would not know what to do.

“My mom knew how to fill it out because I had an older sister who went through the same thing, so she took the lead,” Wulf said.

Amanda Starwalt, the interim Senior Associate Director of Financial Aid, said she and other members of the staff can offer tips students to help ease their confusion and fear as they take on the financial aid process and secure their aid for the next academic year.

“It definitely helps having a mentor who has been through the process before; however, our office is always available to assist with any questions,” Starwalt said.

Starwalt said the first thing students and parents both need to establish a FSA ID, which replaced the FAFSA PIN last spring.

“The user name and password combination is used to submit the FAFSA and sign in to complete entrance counseling, master promissory notes, and for parents the Parent PLUS Loan application,” Starwalt said.

Once this is established, students can then submit the FAFSA online.

However, Starwalt said students and parents should have several items ready before they file, in order to avoid the frustration and confusion that the process may bring.

Starwalt said students and parents should have their Social Security Numbers, most recent federal income tax returns, W-2s, and other records of money earned. Students and parents should also have their bank statements and records of investments (if applicable), records of untaxed income (if applicable) and the FSA ID to sign in electronically.

“Having the federal income tax forms available will help with the transfer of federal tax return information into the FAFSA using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool,” Starwalt said.

Starwalt said students should file before Feb. 15 or as soon as possible in order to meet deadlines and gain a better opportunity for receiving aid.

Once students file their FAFSA, it takes about 3-4 business days for the financial aid office to receive the information; but if the file is selected for verification, the student must provide additional documents via PAWS, Starwalt said.

After the documents are received, it takes about a week for the student to receive their award notification.

Sara Tredennick, a fifth year adult and community education major, said students should file for financial aid even if they think they won’t get anything.

“Some students think there’s no money for them, but whenever there is money to give, sometimes it just sits there,” Tredennick said.

Although the FAFSA has been the signature stamp of January as students rush to complete their form, Starwalt said students can expect to file their FAFSA on Oct. 1, 2016 for the 2017-2018 academic year.

“This is a big change for FAFSA and will allow students to file earlier,” Starwalt said.

Wulf said the new date is ridiculous.

“You don’t have any information yet, so how do they know who to give money to and who needs it?” Wulf said.

Starwalt said it is not always necessary for students to file their taxes first or wait until their parents file their taxes.

Students are encouraged to first file the FAFSA based on their best estimates and then follow up and make revisions once taxes are complete in order to meet deadlines, Starwalt said.


Analicia Haynes can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]