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Posted: October 31, 2022

Hey APS Seniors: It's Time to Fill Out the FAFSA

It’s college application season, which also means it’s time to apply for financial aid and scholarships with the Free Application for Student Aid.

 Prospective MIT applicants listen to a college representative discuss financial aid options and other application information.

Prospective MIT applicants listen to a college representative discuss financial aid options and other application information.

Like all of the college application process, filling out the FAFSA can be daunting. Still, it's important to fill out your FAFSA, not just to receive federal financial aid like student loans and grants but also because many universities and colleges rely on the information to determine eligibility for school-provided financial aid packages and offerings like work study, scholarships, and more.

If you're confused about the process of filling out your student's FAFSA form, you're not alone. That's why we pulled together a few helpful pointers to guide you through the process.

Gather Documents Before You Start

While the FAFSA isn't all that complicated, it certainly is dense. Because the purpose of the FAFSA is to determine how much income a student (or, more often, a student's family) makes to decide which financial aid packages they're eligible for, it asks for a lot of information found on family tax documents.

The FAFSA is available to U.S. citizens, so expect to have citizenship documents and information on hand, too.

While you can save your progress as you go and return to the application later, filling out the form without all the proper paperwork can be a headache. Generally speaking, here are the documents you'll want to gather before you sit down to fill out the FAFSA:

  • The student's birth certificate, social security card, driver's license (if applicable), and/or passport
  • Your family's tax forms from two years before the year your student plans to start college. So, for students applying for college for the fall 2023 semester, you'll need your family's 2021 tax forms.
  • Any documentation about investments or other untaxed income

Decide Who Should Fill Out the Form

While the FAFSA relates to your student's eligibility for financial aid, until your student turns 18, they will need a designated parent to help fill out the form and verify all of the financial information presented in their FAFSA form.

Typically, the parent who the student lives with most should be the one helping fill out the form, but there are exceptions. The Office of the U.S. Department of Education's Federal Student Aid website has a handy graphic, Who's my parent when I fill out the FAFSA form, to guide families.  

Save Your Login! 

When you and your student fill out the FAFSA for the first time, you create what's called an FS AID, which essentially acts as their username and login for every subsequent year that they fill it out. It's a good idea to save the information, whether online or hard copy, in a safe place so they can easily access it the next time they apply for the FAFSA. 

Something that surprises many first-time college students and their parents is that filling out the FAFSA is a process you'll have to repeat every year as long as your student needs financial aid. Keeping on top of your student's login credentials—and helping them track FAFSA deadlines year after year—is a big help when filling out the FAFSA a second, third, or fourth time.

More FAFSA Resources 

Applying for college can be confusing, and filling out the FAFSA is no exception. While deadlines vary by institution, completing the form by January 1 is good practice. 

That means there is still plenty of time to consult with the college and career counselor at your student's high school or to take advantage of the other local resources that the greater Albuquerque and New Mexico communities have to offer.

Here are just a few FAFSA resources to check out:

If you still have questions or believe your student has a unique circumstance that would make filling out their FAFSA form more complicated, please contact your school's college guidance counselor to set up an appointment. They'll be sure to help you navigate the process of filling out the FAFSA correctly, no matter your situation.