By Bailey Cosnett, intern, Department of Communications and Community Outreach
College is just around the corner for BCPS seniors, but there is plenty to attend to before graduation day. A very important step in the college preparation process is the Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA), a form designed to determine a student’s eligibility for financial aid in colleges, universities, and career schools across the country. The FAFSA may seem intimidating at first, but this crucial step towards a successful college career is well worth the effort.
Most of you will be completing the FAFSA online, in which case the first step is to create an FSA ID. The username and password you choose will allow you to sign the electronic FAFSA, as well as to save your progress and continue the form at a later time. You can find out how to create your ID at https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa/filling-out/fsaid.
There are certain documents you will need to have on hand in order to complete the FAFSA:
- The Social Security numbers of yourself and your parents/guardians
- Your driver’s license number if you have one
- Your Alien Registration number if you are not a U.S. citizen
- Federal tax information or tax returns for you and your parents/guardians
- Records of untaxed income
- Information of other investments such as bank account balances, stocks and bonds, and real estate
There are multiple tools available if you may need help while working on the FAFSA, including:
- The “Help and Hints” toolbar on the right side of every FAFSA page
- The “Need Help?” button at the bottom of every FAFSA page
- Live chat with support staff in both English and Spanish
You must list between one and ten colleges to receive your FAFSA information initially. You can add more at any point after completion. These listed schools will receive your FAFSA results automatically.
After your FAFSA is processed, you will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR), which is a summary of the information you submitted. Look over this carefully to see if any corrections need to be made. The SAR will not list any financial aid or grants. The schools to which the FAFSA was sent will calculate your aid and send you an aid offer, also known as an award letter. The time to receive this letter varies from school to school.
The FAFSA is free to complete. The deadline to submit the FAFSA for the state of Maryland is midnight on Tuesday, March 1st. Your colleges of interest may have different deadlines, so be sure to check with their website or a counselor.
For more information, refer to the FAFSA website at https://fafsa.ed.gov/, the Federal Student Aid Office’s guide to filling out the FAFSA, https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa/filling-out, or the official Completing the 2016-17 FAFSA pamphlet, https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/sites/default/files/2016-17-completing-fafsa.pdf. Your college counselor will also be more than happy to help with any questions you may have. Go