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Filling Out the FAFSA in 2024

04/06/2021 - Financial Planners, Financial Wellness & Life Planning, Budgeting, Tools for Teens, College Bound Basics, WesBanco Wellness Series, College Prep

WesBanco Wellness: College Prep Edition

Welcome to WesBanco Wellness: College Prep Edition. In an effort to help students set up a solid financial footing for the future, we will cover such topics as the FAFSA, the cost of college, setting up your first account and repaying student loans.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is an application for financial aid made up of scholarships and grants that the government awards to students based on their needs.

Unfortunately, many students who would qualify for FAFSA funds don’t even complete the application. A recent study on found that $3.75 billion in financial aid went unclaimed in by the high school graduating class of 2021. That means more than 800,000 students were eligible but didn’t claim their fair share of FAFSA grants and scholarships.

The average amount awarded hovers around $4,477. Not bad for about a half-hour of work, right? Simply filling out the application is half the battle for most people. If you’re getting ready to fill out the FAFSA, follow these tips to make it quick, painless, and worth your time.

Get Your Documents Together

The FAFSA application requires you to prove your family’s financial situation, so make sure you have all of the documents you need before you start the application. Here’s what you should have on hand:

  • Your social security number.
  • A Federal Student Aid Identification Number or FSA ID for you and all your contributors such as a spouse, parents, or guardians (this is a login to create here.).
  • Your driver’s license or another form of government-issued ID.
  • Bank account statements and any other asset records.
  • Records of untaxed income such as child support, disability benefits, and health savings accounts.
  • The code for each school you want to apply to. You can find them here.

Fill Out the Application

Now you’re ready to start filling out the FAFSA application. The good news is that you only need to fill it out once, and then you can use your school codes to submit the application to the schools you want.

You have nothing to lose by applying.

Send your application to all the schools you’re considering. You can apply to up to 10 schools through the FAFSA website. It’s free and your future eligibility for financial aid is tied to your application. You can even send an application to a school that hasn’t accepted you yet. If you’re not accepted, they’ll just disregard your application, so it’s no big deal.

Fill out the FAFSA even if you don’t think you qualify. Your eligibility doesn’t just boil down to how much you make, but how much your parents make, how much you have in savings, and how much your family would be expected to contribute to your education. Even if your parents make six figures, you won’t be automatically disqualified from getting aid. Your FAFSA can also be the key to low-cost student loans. If you don’t qualify for a grant or a grant doesn’t cover the full cost you need, your school can use your FAFSA to help you find low-interest federal loan options to pay your way.

When filling out the FAFSA, don’t leave spaces blank. Blank spaces can lead to processing delays. Fill out as much as you can, and then use zeroes or choose “Not Applicable” to fill in fields that don’t apply to you.

Advice for filling out the FAFSA: Do it! Lots of grant money (that’s free money) goes unclaimed every year, and some of it could be yours. You have nothing to lose by applying.

The FAFSA makes college more affordable for millions of students every year. Every school has grants and scholarships available to students—and all they have to do is ask. By taking your time and filling out the FAFSA before you start school, it could mean less in student loans and more in your bank account.

Changes to the 2024-2025 FAFSA Form

The government has rolled out significant changes to the 2024-2025 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Get caught up on all the updates so you can fill out your FAFSA effectively.

Changes to the Filing Process

The biggest change in filling out the FAFSA is how tax data is collected. Instead of manually entering information such as yearly income, the IRS will now transfer tax records directly into the FAFSA—with your permission, of course. This new approval process is easy, fast, and accurate, all at the click of a button.

The updates also include a new designation for those around the student applying for aid called contributors. Contributors include parents, guardians, spouses, and partners who must also log in and submit their information as a part of the application. It’s important to note that someone may be considered a contributor even if they’re not planning to contribute financially to the student’s education. Once the student fills out their section of the FAFSA, they will be told what contributors need to participate in their application.

To accurately complete the FAFSA, contributors must follow through on their section of the application. Here’s a breakdown of how the process will work:

  • The student will create an FSA ID (a unique username and password used to access the website) and fill out their section of the FAFSA.
  • The student will be prompted to enter the email addresses of the contributors who need to provide information for their application (if any). Those contributors will receive a link to create an FSA ID and finish their portion of the application.
  • Each contributor will create an account and log in independently using their own FSA ID to approve releasing their tax information to FAFSA.

Both the student and the contributors must consent to access their tax information. This step is crucial for the FAFSA process. This consent applies to all situations, including those where a contributor does not have a Social Security Number, did not file taxes, or filed taxes outside of the United States.

Students must ensure that each contributor understands these requirements and completes their part of the process for the FAFSA application. If you need further assistance or specific details, visit the official FAFSA website or contact their support.

FAFSA will no longer ask for reporting of Selected Service registration and drug convictions.

Changes to Calculations

Previously, an estimate of how much a student’s family was likely to contribute to a student’s education, the Expected Family Contribution (EFC), was used to calculate student aid amounts. The EFC has been replaced with the Student Aid Index (SAI). This is a number that schools can use to determine how much aid a student will need in order to attend. The transition from the EFC to the SAI significantly changes how student aid eligibility is calculated.

SAI Overview:

  • SAI Calculation Factors: The SAI takes into account the income of both the student and their contributors to assess the amount of aid a student is eligible for.
  • SAI Number: Unlike the EFC, which was a dollar amount, the SAI isn’t tied to anything specific, but indicates a student’s financial need to the school. The lower the SAI number, the greater the demonstrated financial need. The SAI can go as low as -1500.
  • Impact on Aid Eligibility: With the introduction of the SAI, there is an anticipated increase of about 15% more students qualifying for student aid. The SAI is designed to be more inclusive and responsive to students’ financial situations.

These changes are based on an effort to make financial aid more equitable and reflective of a student’s financial needs and to make filling out the FAFSA easier and quicker. Understanding these updates is the best way to ensure your FAFSA goes smoothly and you get the aid you need.

Content is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal or financial advice. The views and opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of WesBanco.

While we hope you find this content useful, it is only intended to serve as a starting point. Your next step is to speak with a qualified, licensed professional who can provide advice tailored to your individual circumstances. Nothing in this article, nor in any associated resources, should be construed as financial or legal advice. Furthermore, while we have made good faith efforts to ensure that the information presented was correct as of the date the content was prepared, we are unable to guarantee that it remains accurate today.

Neither Banzai nor its sponsoring partners make any warranties or representations as to the accuracy, applicability, completeness, or suitability for any particular purpose of the information contained herein. Banzai and its sponsoring partners expressly disclaim any liability arising from the use or misuse of these materials and, by visiting this site, you agree to release Banzai and its sponsoring partners from any such liability. Do not rely upon the information provided in this content when making decisions regarding financial or legal matters without first consulting with a qualified, licensed professional.

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