Completing the FAFSA can be stressful, but it doesn’t need to be. With college applications under review, deadlines to meet, and taxes to file, you’ve got enough to worry about. That’s why we compiled this FAFSA checklist. It includes everything you’ll need to complete your FAFSA, as well as tips about where to go for help if you need it.
Know Your Deadlines!
FAFSA filing deadlines differ for schools, states, and the federal government. Start by learning the deadlines at the schools you’re applying to, since those will probably be the earliest. It’s critical that you know these deadlines so you file your FAFSA on time. And make sure you understand how your school interprets deadline: do they mean the date they receive your completed FAFSA or the date you submit your FAFSA? It takes a few days to process, so there is a gap.
Documents You’ll Need
- Social Security Number
- Driver’s license
- Alien registration or permanent resident card (if non-US citizen)
- 2012 IRS W-2 form
- 2012 Federal Income Tax Return (IRS 1040, 1040A, 1040 EZ)**
- 2012 Parents’ Federal Income Tax Return from last year**
- Records of untaxed income (child support, interest income, veterans noneducation benefits)
- Current bank statements and records of investments (stocks, bonds, mutual funds)
- Current mortgage information
- Business or farm records (if applicable)
Completing the Form
If you have questions before you begin the application, it’s a good idea to contact the Financial Aid office at the schools you’re applying to. You can also refer to this official guide, Completing the FAFSA. When you start the application, FAFSA on the Web will guide you through the process. But if you need any help, you’ve got several options. First, you can consult the “Help and Hints” section on the right side of the page. Next, you can click “Need Help?” at the bottom of the page. If those don’t help, then you can click “Contact Us” at the top of the page to chat with a live technical support specialist.
** You can submit the FAFSA even if you and your parents haven’t filed your 2012 taxes yet. All you have to do is select “Will file” when asked, “Have you completed a 2012 income tax return?” Estimate your income based on your 2011 income tax return or use the Income Estimator. Once you file your 2012 taxes, you can log in to your FAFSA and update the information.