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Applying for financial aid? Here are 5 things to know about the FAFSA

Meghan Holsclaw

If you’re applying for college, you’re likely to hear a lot about the FAFSA, but what’s it all about?

Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, is one of the most important steps in your college journey. The financial information you provide about you and your family will be the basis for determining your eligibility for federal student aid, including federal grants, work-study and loans. Many state governments and colleges, including Spalding University, also use FAFSA information to determine students’ eligibility for the aid and scholarships that they distribute.

All students want to know as early as possible exactly how much college will cost, what money they’re eligible for and if they’ll need loans, but without a completed FAFSA, a college can only estimate the kind of aid a student will receive and can’t award anything until it has it. So, the FAFSA is a big deal, but it’s also completely manageable.

Get familiar with FAFSA.gov, where you’ll fill out the form, as well as StudentAid.ed.gov, which has a ton of info on the FAFSA and different types of student aid.  Spalding’s financial aid staff is also available to help at 502-873-4330. (Learn more about how to apply for aid.)

When you fill out the FAFSA, remember that Spalding’s school code is 001960. You need to enter that so that Spalding can process your information, and any government aid you receive gets dispersed properly.

With this year’s FAFSA around the corner, here are five other things you’ll want to know as you go forward.

1. It’s free

You should never be paying to file your FAFSA. Remember, the first “F” in FAFSA stands for “Free.” However, there are sites that will try to scam students into giving over their information. Make sure you are always filling out the application at FAFSA.gov.

2. It has to be filled out every year

The FAFSA is not a one-time thing. If you are planning on going to school for the following school year, you need to refile your FAFSA.

3. The application window starts Oct. 1

Since 2016, the FAFSA may be filed starting on Oct. 1. Access to the form is available at 12:01 a.m. that day, and because some grants and scholarships are distributed first come, first served, the sooner you file, the better. The farther away from Oct. 1, the less opportunities for grants and scholarship awards there are because those funds run out quickly!

4. You use tax info from two years prior

You’ll need tax information to complete the FAFSA. Students filing the 2019-20 FAFSA should use their (or their parents’, if appropriate) 2017 federal tax return. The Internal Revenue Service offers a Data Retrieval Tool to help students and families get the tax information they need for the FAFSA.

5. It’s not as scary as it seems

Even if it shares the same month as Halloween, the FAFSA isn’t all that scary. The form will tell you exactly what you need in order to fill it out. And, if you still have trouble, don’t hesitate to stop by the Spalding financial aid office, which takes walk-ins and can help you through it.

Kentucky’s FAFSA is distributed on a first-come, first-served basis, so filing as soon as possible is imperative. Funds for “free money” (your grants, scholarships, etc.) are the first to go and are usually depleted by January. It is easier than ever to fill out the FAFSA, and it only takes about 45 minutes the first time you file and about 30 minutes in subsequent years. So, this Oct. 1, sit down with your favorite scary movie, candy bar and pumpkin-spiced snack, and get it done.