Three Easy Tips for Getting Ready to Apply for Financial Aid

Winter is the season for most the assignment online to start working on their financial aid applications. When you’re organized and prepared ahead of time, you can minimize stress and mistakes during this important process. 1. Know your deadlines.  Since financial aid can come from a variety of sources, you might have multiple deadlines to stay on top of. For starters, the deadline to apply for federal financial aid isn’t until the end of your eligible school year as late as June 30, 2013 if you’re in college during 2012-13. Meanwhile, deadlines for many state financial aid programs are in the spring or summer before the eligible school year. Here in Massachusetts, the deadline is May 1. You’ll find that most colleges have financial aid deadlines far earlier than the federal and state deadlines. Early Action and Early Decision applicants may have a priority financial aid deadline in the fall. Other financial deadlines usually come around in February orMarch; you can usually find them in the admission section of the college website. And here’s a tip: while you’re checking their deadlines, you might alsowant to make a note of their Federal School Code, which you’ll need when you’re filing the FAFSA. Here’s what it boils down to: focus on the earliestdeadline on your list, to make sure you don’t miss out on any potential source of financial aid. Through consolidated financial aid application forms likethe FAFSA and CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE (Step 3 here), meeting one deadline often means that you’ve met the subsequent ones as well. 2. Register for your PIN. You don’t have to wait until you’ve finished the FAFSA to register for your Federal Student Aid PIN. Apply for your PIN online at www.pin.ed.gov, or if you already have one but forgot it, you can have it sent to you again. All you need is your full legal name, date of birth, and Social Security Number. Once you’ve got your Federal Student Aid PIN, write it down in a safe place that you won’t forget, like the Password Manager in MEFA’sFinancial Aid Toolkit. You will need to use the same PIN each year to renew the FAFSA. The FAFSA on the Web has many advantages over the paper FAFSA, including simplified questions, interactive help sections, and a faster processing time. At the end you’ll need to enter your Federal Student Aid PIN, which serves as your electronic signature. Each FAFSA will require two PIN signatures, one from the student and one from a parent. 3. Gather yourdocuments. Use MEFA’s Financial Aid Toolkit to help you start a financial aid file that includes your family’s most recent completed tax returns, year-end pay stubs, any W2s and 1099s, bank statements, and more. Financial aid applications will include questions about your family’s financial situation. It helps to assemble your paperwork ahead of time so you can answer the questions as accurately as possible.

 

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