FAFSA help: what you should know before you apply

FAFSA help: what you should know before you apply

Mother and teenage daughter looking at laptop together

Ready to help your teen apply for financial aid for the upcoming academic year? The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) is the best place to start! If it’s your first time filling out this form, it’s best to go into the process prepared. Get the FAFSA help you need by reading this article! 

Create your FSA ID

Your FSA ID serves as your electronic signature that allows you to access and sign the FAFSA online. You and your teen will both need a FSA ID. You’ll want to keep your username and password in a safe space. 

Gather the appropriate documents

Make sure you have the proper personal and financial information before filling out the FAFSA, including:

  • Student and parent FSA ID
  • A Social Security Number 
  • Your student’s federal tax return
  • Your own federal tax return
  • W-2s and other records of money earned
  • Current bank statements
  • Investment records

Know your college shortlist before submitting

It’s important that your teen knows what schools they are interested in attending before they apply for financial aid. Your student will be required to select at least one college to receive their FAFSA information, but they can select up to 10. Colleges will take this information and use it to create a financial aid offer, which is a summary of all the financial aid your student has been offered, along with an estimated cost of attendance. 

Monitor deadlines

The FAFSA traditionally opens on Oct. 1, but this year it opens in December. It will close on June 30 of the following academic year, meaning it is open for about a year and a half. However, it’s important to fill out the FAFSA as soon as possible as some aid is limited.  Every state has its own deadline for financial aid, as does every institution.  UNI has a priority deadline of Feb. 15, 2024 for the 2024-25 FAFSA.  Make sure your teen knows all of these deadlines and has submitted their FAFSA ahead of time.  

Understand aid options and eligibility requirements

When you apply for financial aid, you should have a basic understanding of the different types of aid and their eligibility requirements. Loans are financial aid you have to pay back, while grants and scholarships you do not. Work study is an option for students to work part-time and put their earnings toward their education or other living expenses.. 

Get more FAFSA help from UNI’s Office of Financial Aid & Scholarships

If you and your teen are still struggling with filling out the FAFSA, help is available! The Office of Financial Aid & Scholarships at UNI is happy to answer your FAFSA questions or any inquiries related to helping your student pay for college. We even offer virtual appointments! Get in touch as soon as you have questions so you can submit your FAFSA in a timely manner.