It’s FAFSA time!  Help your students fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Here is the Department of Educations blog about the 2019-2010 FAFSA.  It has several helpful links:

Who should apply?

Everyone.  Despite its name, FAFSA is one-stop shopping for federal, state, and institutional money–including Pell Grants–and it’s the only pathway to student loans.  Many colleges use the information from the FAFSA forms to calculate how much institutional aid they will grant to a student.  Even your students whose families are doing well financially may be eligible.

The high school class of 2017 left unclaimed $2.3 billion in federal grant money.  Why?  Because more than a third of eligible students don’t fill out the FAFSA forms. (In North Carolina, this figure was 39% for the class of 2017.)   Almost half of students eligible for Pell Grants didn’t fill out the forms. (In 2017-2018, Pell Grants were as high as $5,920.)  FAFSA serves not only as a means to attain grant, scholarship, and work-study funds, but it is a mandatory first step to apply for federal student loans, which are typically easier to repay than private loans. 

To see how much money they may be eligible for, families can go to FAFSA4caster (, which will forecast their eligibility (with amounts) if they do apply. 

To start the actual application process, start here:


How Students Missed Out on $2.3 Billion in Free College Aid

When should students apply?

Right now.  Money is usually passed out on a first-come/first-served basis, so the sooner your students apply, the more money they may be eligible for.  The dates for submission for the 2019-2020 school year are October 1, 2018 to June 30, 2020.  (Corrections and updates are allowed till September 15, 2020.)  These dates vary among states, but are valid in North Carolina. (For other states, see  Schools have different deadlines, and you can usually find these on their web sites. If you or your students and their families downloaded the application forms prior to October 1, 2018, they should redo so.  Forms were changed for this school year. Also, FAFSA is now available on many mobile devices.

Why should parents be involved?

Unless students are at least 23 years old, married,or both, they will need information about their birth or adoptive parents. They may even need information about step-parents.  Students will create their own FSA ID and FSA ID password, but if parental information is needed, their parents will need their own FSA IDs and passwords. (If students have no information about their parents and no means of attaining it, they may still apply.)  

Common errors

To avoid problems setting up the ID, make sure each ID is associated with a different email address, and check the birthdays and social security numbers. Also, don’t use nicknames.  The names used should match the names on the social security cards.  

What information will they need about parents?

Names (remember–no nicknames!), dates of birth, marital status, etc.  For the 2019-2020 form, they will need their 2017 tax information.  (This is new.  In the past, the previous year was needed, and this often wasn’t available at the time of the application.)  Now, because the IRS probably already has the parents’ tax information, it can be imported right into the form using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT).  Parents should have their 2017 tax returns and W-2s, just in case, however.

Mark all Options!

Tell students and families to mark all options, four-year, community college, private, etc. when completing FAFSA.  If they change their mind, and for example, decide to go to a community college instead of a four-year school, they may not be informed about financial aid opportunities.

Help Families With FASFA Information

Helping low-income and first-generation college families with information about FAFSA is critical. Simply providing them with information can be very helpful.

Be Pro-Active

Use the information in this blog to create a newsletter and information handout to provide to parents of your seniors.

If you have problems with FAFSA, call: 1-800-433-3243.