5 Tips For Completing Your FAFSA

5 Tips For Completing Your FAFSA

Completing a financial aid application isn’t difficult, but it can be overwhelming. Don’t think you have to do this all on your own. If you are still a high school student, take advantage of your school’s Financial Aid Nights or talk with your guidance counselor. At Northern Pennsylvania Regional College (NPRC), our Student Success Specialists and the Financial Aid Office can help you navigate the financial aid application process. Currently, NPRC is pursuing accreditation that will allow us to participate in federal student aid programs; until then we are making institutional aid available to our current and prospective students. Visit the Cost and Aid section of our website for details on tuition and fee costs and to apply for institutional aid.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

The FAFSA is a form that is completed every year by prospective and current college students to determine the amount of federal student loans, grants, or work-study funds they may be able to receive. You can begin this application process as early as October for the following fall start up.

Note: NPRC does not yet have a federal school code and cannot offer federal or state financial aid at this time. The following tips for completing your FAFSA are provided as a courtesy to help you navigate what can be a confusing financial aid application process. The FAFSA allows you to list up to 10 colleges. Once NPRC becomes eligible we will post an update to our website providing our federal school code, and you can add NPRC as a college on your FAFSA. In the meantime, you can apply for NPRC Institutional Aid, and check back regularly for updates on local, state, and federal financial aid.

Consider these five tips when you are completing your FAFSA.

1. File Your FAFSA and Create Your FSA ID at Studentaid.gov

Studentaid.gov is the website that gives you access to the FAFSA. The application is completely free; do not trust a website asking for payment! An FSA ID is a username and password that gives you access to Federal Student Aid’s online systems and can serve as your legal signature. Only create and use an FSA ID if you are the account owner; if you are dependent for federal student aid purposes, a parent will need their own FSA ID. Use a personal email address to create a username and password and do not use the same email address as anyone else applying for an FSA ID. This ID will be used to complete your FAFSA application each year so make sure the email address can be accessible the entire time you are in college. Keep your login information in a secure place in case you forget it.

2. Know Your Deadlines

The FAFSA application opens on October 1st of each year. Financial aid deadlines can vary by school, state, or program of study. State deadlines can be checked online. Oftentimes, the earlier you apply, the more aid you can receive.

3. Gather the Information You Will Need for the Application

Applying for federal financial aid requires a tax return from two years prior. In addition to your tax return, you will need your social security and driver’s license numbers, documentation of untaxed incomes – including workers comp, child support, payments to tax deferred pension, savings plans, etc. – and current bank statements, records of stocks and bonds, 529 plans, and other investments. If you are dependent for federal student aid purposes, you will also need your parent’s taxes and financial information.

4. Use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool if possible

The IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) within the FAFSA lets you transfer your tax information directly to your FAFSA. It will save you time, prevent mistakes, and lower your chances of being selected for the FAFSA verification process. If you are selected and used the IRS DRT, you most likely will not need to provide the school with a copy of your tax return or transcript.

5. Use the FAFSA “helps” within the online application

Questions about dependency status, marital status, family circumstances, family structure, and other frequently asked questions can make additional work for you down the road if answered incorrectly. Use the blue and white question mark icon next to a FAFSA question to view a “tool tip” that provides information about how to answer that question. You can also select the “Help” button at the bottom of the tool tip to reach the “FAFSA Help” page to browse FAQs and search for more information.

Still hesitant to apply to college because you aren’t sure if you can afford it? If you have already filed your FAFSA and have received a Student Aid Report (SAR) that provides estimated federal aid, in most cases NPRC will match any grant aid you have been offered on your Student Aid Report with Institutional Aid. If you have not filed a FAFSA, Finaid.org offers a calculator to estimate Expected Family Contribution (EFC). With an estimated EFC, you can talk to the Financial Aid Office to help you get an idea of how much Institutional Aid you might receive.

For questions about financial aid or to apply for Institutional Aid, contact the NPRC Financial Aid Office at financialaid@rrcnpa.org or by calling 814-230-9010.