The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known better as FAFSA, is the application that is required to be used by all colleges in awarding financial aid. So, if you want to be considered for federal and state grants, federal work-study, and federal student loans you will have to apply for FAFSA.

Nearly all students who apply qualify for some form of federal financial aid. It’s very easy to qualify for aid based on the FAFSA application each aid year.

Even if you know you won’t qualify for any funding, it’s still recommended to apply because the FAFSA’s expected family contribution information will help you apply for scholarships.

A student should apply for FAFSA each year they plan to be in college.

Over my time working in the financial aid office I hear a lot about how confusing or complex the process of filling out the FAFSA can be for students and their families. That is where my specialty comes into play by offering that one-on-one support for those students that are struggling when applying for FAFSA.

You can apply for FAFSA online, with the myStudentAid mobile app or mail a PDF version to the Department of Education.

The online FAFSA uses skip-logic technology to present applicants with relevant questions. The amount of time it will take to complete the FAFSA can vary. Completion time is typically longer for dependent students because they must provide both their own information and their parents’ information.

It’s important when planning to complete the FAFSA that you have all the needed documents available to answer the FAFSA questions. The 2022-2023 FAFSA requires the 2020 filed tax return — if required to file — and W2s for both student and parent of a dependent student.

Other documents to have on hand would be the student’s and, if required, their parent’s social security card, driver’s license or state ID, alien registration number for non-US citizens, records of untaxed income and statements of assets.

Once documents have been gathered for the required income year of the FAFSA, a student is ready to create their FSA ID that serves as the login credentials and their electronic signature. For all dependent students, their parents must create an FSA ID to be able to sign the parent part. It’s required that student and parent have their own FSA ID.

When creating the FSA ID you must have a valid email address and phone number to go along with their social security number and date of birth.

A common question that I am asked is, “What would my dependency status be for FAFSA?”

To keep it simple, if a FAFSA applicant can say yes to any of the dependency requirements they would be considered an independent student, but if it’s a no to them all then a student would be considered a dependent and would be required to provide parent information.

Some of the requirements for the 2022-2023 FAFSA would be being born before January 1, 1999, married and have children or other dependents they support. Go to studentaid.gov website for a full list of requirements.

If no is the answer to all those questions, there still is a special circumstance to consider for independent status on the FAFSA: a student would need to contact the Financial Aid Office of the school they decide to go to form more information. Just stating I don’t live with my parent(s) or that their parent(s) don’t provide any financial support is not a claim that would be considered a special circumstance.

The FAFSA opens each year on Oct. 1. There are three deadlines to observe. You want to know what the school deadlines will be, the state deadlines that drive state grants and some state scholarships, and the June 30 deadline when the FAFSA application closes for that specific aid year.

Some grants that are available with a FAFSA are on a first-come, first-served basis until funds are exhausted. It’s recommended to apply for FAFSA on the first day the application opens for the next year’s aid year. It’s important for a college-seeking student to be aware of the priority deadlines that each school has because those dates may vary.

If you miss a priority filing date, you may miss out on grant money especially when it comes to institutional aid since many schools award their need-based grants from the information submitted on the FAFSA. Keep this in mind that the sooner you apply for FAFSA when it opens, the more possibilities of funding you will be eligible for.

For more information about financial aid contact the Umpqua Community College Financial Aid Office at 541-440-4602. For FAFSA assistance please contact Ben Horvath at 541-440-7645 or go online to umpqua.edu/financial aid and schedule an appointment with Ben.

Ben Horvath is a financial aid specialist at Umpqua Community College

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