Charger Family Connection

Filing the FAFSA

Image of students on campus
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) opened on October 1.

Wouldn’t it be great if your student could pay their way through college with scholarships and graduate debt-free? Sure it would. But, this scenario is more fantasy than reality for most families. To cope with the reality that your student’s college bills will likely outweigh their income and assets, you’ll need a solid financial plan, and that plan starts with filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Meet the FAFSA

Every college-bound student should complete the FAFSA, and it often falls to the parents to motivate students to complete this process. You and your student will answer a series of questions about your income and assets, and in the end you’ll have a number known as Expected Family Contribution (EFC). This is the annual amount that the government expects you and your student to be able to pay toward a college education. If the Cost of Attendance (COA) at a school exceeds your EFC, your student will be eligible for need-based loans and/or grants.

"Every college-bound student should complete the FAFSA."

You and your student can file the FAFSA as early as October 1 for the following academic year, and you’ll need to repeat the process each year. You should encourage your student to file the FAFSA even if you don’t think they’ll qualify for need-based aid. The unsubsidized Direct Loan program is available to students regardless of financial need, but your student can’t qualify if they don’t file the FAFSA.

What You'll Need

The more organized you are, the easier you’ll find the FAFSA process to be. Here are some of the key pieces of information and documents you’ll need:

  • Your FSA ID (you’ll need to create one for you and one for your student)
  • Your student’s Social Security number
  • Your student’s driver’s license (if available)
  • Student’s and parents’ federal tax returns and W-2s (though you may be able to retrieve this information online while completing the FAFSA)
  • Records of untaxed income, such as payments to tax-deferred savings plans, child support, veterans benefits, or workers’ compensation
  • Current bank statements
  • Information about any businesses you own, investment mortgage information, business and farm records, and other investment records
Three Tips for Smooth Sailing
  1. Be sure to use full legal names as they appear on your Social Security cards (parents and student alike). Using a nickname or other variation can cause a processing delay.
  2. Set up FSA IDs early so that you are ready to start the FAFSA October 1.
  3. If you don’t have a desktop or laptop computer, try the myStudentAid app (available in the App Store and Google Play) for your tablet or smartphone.
What's Next?

After filing the FAFSA, you’ll receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) that contains your EFC. If you provided an e-mail address on the FAFSA, you’ll receive the SAR by e-mail, or you can view it online. You can also elect to receive a copy of the SAR by mail. The SAR and EFC will be sent to the schools your student indicated on the FAFSA, and these schools will offer them financial aid packages based on this data.

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