Money for College: FAFSA Dos and Don'ts
(Albany, NY: Jan. 7, 2013) Think applying for college financial aid is too time-consuming or that you won’t qualify for college aid? Student Financial Aid Awareness Month, recognized this January throughout New York State, aims to dispel the misconceptions about college financial aid and make it easier to apply.
The New York State Higher Education Services Corporation (HESC) is helping students and families complete the FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, with a website, StartHereGetThere.org
, toll-free hotline, online chat and free FAFSA completion workshops across the State.
The FAFSA determines eligibility for federal student financial aid programs such as Pell Grants, Stafford Loans and federal work-study. It’s also the basis for determining eligibility for New York State Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) grants and some other state and college-based scholarships and aid programs.
College-bound students and families can reach HESC’s financial aid experts by online chat daily at StartHereGetThere.org or call the FAFSA Hotline at 1-800-808-1790 Monday through Friday between noon and 5 pm through January 31; or email anytime to FAFSAHelp at hesc.org. Free, in-person assistance is available at events across the State…check the website for locations, dates and times.
Here are “dos and don’ts” to keep in mind as you complete the FAFSA:
DO:Complete the FAFSA online
. It's faster, easier and more accurate than the paper version. Log on at www.hesc.ny.gov
Prepare your federal income taxes as early as possible
and have your parents prepare theirs early, too. Much of the financial information required on the FAFSA comes from your federal tax form. If you estimate and there is a difference in reported income, be sure to file an updated FAFSA later. You can use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool on the FAFSA website to quickly update your financial information.
Get a PIN
now. To apply for federal financial aid electronically, you and your parents must get a Federal Student Aid Personal Identification Number (PIN) at www.pin.ed.gov
. You will use the PIN to “sign” your FAFSA electronically.
Keep your PIN and passwords in a safe place
. Your PIN is as important as your bank PIN. Don’t share it with anyone.
File a FAFSA each year you attend college
to request aid. The online FAFSA will remember you from previous applications, so you will need only to provide updated information.
, when the FAFSA refers to “you,” and “your,” it means, you, the student, NOT your parents or family.
Use your legal name
, as shown on your Social Security card. Enter your Social Security Number (SSN) carefully
. An incorrect SSN may delay your FAFSA and you may miss important college financial aid deadlines. To correct an error, you may have to submit copies of your birth certificate and Social Security card before your FAFSA is processed.
Read every question carefully
and complete every field according to the instructions on the FAFSA. The computer reads a blank as an error. The online form uses skip logic to help you avoid answering unnecessary questions.
to the questions about your interest in different types of federal aid, such as work-study and student loans. You won’t be obligated to accept offers you don’t want and answering “no” will not afford additional grant money.
, the student, as one of the people in your family who will be college students during the award year.
Look for the New York link on the FAFSA confirmation page.
You may be eligible for a New York State Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) grant. New York residents who select any college in New York State to receive information will be directed to the TAP application by a link from the FAFSA confirmation page.
Consider adding more than one college to the FAFSA
, so you can compare financial aid. Students should look at multiple schools before choosing a college and consider carefully which best meets their criteria, considering price, the financial aid offered, quality of education and graduation rates. The online FAFSA has space for 10 schools.
Carefully review the Student Aid Report
(SAR) that is e-mailed to you after the FAFSA has been processed. Make sure the SAR doesn’t indicate any problems such as a missing signature or incorrect financial information. You can make corrections to the FAFSA at the FAFSA Web site.
–complete the online FAFSA as soon as possible after January 1. Many colleges have early deadlines for consideration of scholarships, grants and other forms of financial aid; check your college’s Web site for specific deadlines.
Assume you don’t qualify
for financial aid. At least 1.7 million students nationwide don’t complete a FAFSA because they think they are ineligible. About one-third of these students would have qualified for a Pell Grant; about one-sixth would have qualified for a full Pell Grant, worth $5,500. Many scholarships and grants are based on merit and other factors, but still require a FAFSA for consideration.
Use decimal points
when completing financial sections. Decimals are not recognized during processing, so $500.00 will be misread as $50,000.
Forget to sign the form
. When filing online, make sure to use the correct federal PIN for you, the student, and your parents.
, the first word in FAFSA is “Free.”
Beware of anyone charging a fee to file the FAFSA for you. There is no “secret” method of qualifying for more aid, nor do you have to pay to file the application.
The FAFSA is your key to federal student financial aid, so file as soon as possible and take advantage of the maximum federal funding for which you qualify.
: HESC is New York State’s student financial aid agency that helps people pay for college and a national leader in providing need-based grant and scholarship award money to college-going students. At HESC’s core are programs like the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP), numerous state scholarships, federal college access grants and a highly successful College Savings program. HESC puts college within the reach of hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers each year through programs like these and through the guidance it provides to students, families and counselors. In 2011-12, HESC helped more than 424,000 students achieve their college dreams by providing more than $971.5 million in grants, scholarships and loan forgiveness benefits, including $920.1 million awarded through the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP).
Editors: For more information, contact Kathy Crowder, Sr. Vice President for Communications at (518) 402-1448; firstname.lastname@example.org