FAFSA COMPLETION: TIPS
The FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. It is a required form for most students who wish to be considered for financial aid. Even a family that believes they will not qualify for needs-based financial aid should consider filing the FAFSA since that is sometimes required for a student to be awarded merit aid.
Detailed instructions for how to complete the FAFSA are included in the next page (Financial Aid Process), but the student and one parent will obtain a FSA ID at www.fsaid.ed.gov and will go to www.fafsa.gov to complete the form after FSA IDs are obtained.
Q: Who is “you” or “your” when completing the FAFSA?
A: Any references to “you” or “your” mean the student. This is the student’s form.
Q: I’m not a citizen. How do I know if I’m an “eligible non-citizen”?
A: See the notes for questions 14 and 15: if you have a permanent resident card, a conditional green card or I-94 arrival-departure card, you are an eligible noncitizen and should provide your number in question 15. If you have DACA status and/or various student visas listed in the notes, you will not be eligible for federal financial aid (however, if this is your status but you do have a SSN, you should complete the FAFSA as you may be eligible for state or institutional aid).
Q: What is my “state of legal residence”?
A: This is your fixed and permanent home. If you moved to Texas less than 5 years ago, you will need to provide month and year when you moved to Texas. Note you cannot claim Texas as your state of legal residence if you moved here specifically for the purpose of being a state resident for Texas colleges.
Q: I am male, but I am a pacifist, conscientious objector to military service and/or transgender (born male). Do I have to respond affirmatively to “register me” in Question 22? What happens if I have not registered and don’t respond to Question 22?
A: If you do not register and do not affirmatively request automatic registration through Question 22 on the FAFSA, you will be ineligible for federal student aid. The Selective Service Act interprets, and bases its registration requirements, on gender at birth. If you were born a male, you must still register in order to qualify for federal financial aid.
Q: I am a male but not yet 18 years old. Should I respond to Question 22 and request that I be registered?
A: If you wish, you can pre-register at www.sss.gov if you are at least 17 years and 3 months old. For purposes of your initial FAFSA, you do not need to answer Question 22 by completing the circle. You also will not be required to update your FAFSA once you turn 18 years old.
Q: I made some money working for a summer job, but I didn’t realize I might need to file a federal income tax return. How would I know if I should have filed?
A: If one or both your parents can claim you as a dependent on their tax return and you did not earn more than $6,350, you likely will not be required to file. The efile.com calculator will walk you through the factors and send you an email to let you know whether you are required to file a tax return or not.
Q: Questions 39 and 40 tell me to include earnings, even if I did not file a tax return. Where do I find that information?
A: You may have received a W-2 or a Form 1099 from your employer. Those forms will list out earnings paid to you, as well as any tax that was withheld. If you earned money from tips or babysitting or mowing lawns, you likewise need to log those amounts. If you made more than $400 from those sorts of jobs, you will need to file a tax return to report it as self-employment income.
Q: What might qualify as student-held investments for Question 42?
A: If your parents or other relatives set up a trust fund or UGMA or UTMA account in your name, the value of this account would need to be included. Most students are unlikely to have the other investments required to be included here. Note that 529 plans (or similar qualified education savings plans) are reported as a parent investment later in the form (unless the student is independent and not required to include any parent information in the FAFSA filing). See the Notes to Questions 42 and 43 in FAFSA instructions.
Q: I am a sophomore in college and completing a FAFSA for next year’s aid. Do I include merit aid I received from my college this past year in Question 44(d)?
A: Yes. You will need to include taxable aid in your adjusted gross income.
Q: I live with my aunt and uncle, who were appointed legal guardians for me. Do I include their financial information in Section 4?
No. You will answer “yes” to Question 55 and skip Section 4 of the FAFSA completely.
Q: My parents are divorced. Whose financial information should be included in Section 4?
You will include financial information for the parent you lived with most during the previous year. If your time was divided equally between your parents, you will provide information about the parent who provided you the most financial support during that same time. In either case, you must include that parent’s spouse if they have remarried. If that parent (the one you lived with more or provided you with the most financial support) is not remarried, then you only provide financial information for that parent alone.
Q: I live with my gay adoptive parents, and they are not legally married.
A: Check the box for “Unmarried and both parents living together” and provide information for both parents. Instructions for Questions 80-94 notes that you should call 1-800-433-3243 for assistance in completing these questions. The responses may, however, auto-generate from the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.
Q: My parents are undocumented. Should I use the number they use to file income tax returns?
A: No, you cannot use the ITIN (individual tax identification number) in place of the SSN on the FAFSA. In this case, enter Zeros for all 9 digits of the SSN. If you are applying for FAFSA online, the IRS Data Retrieval Tool may still work if your parents filed income tax returns using ITINs. Your parents will be unable to obtain the FSA ID to sign the FAFSA electronically. You will need to print the signature page and mail it in separately.
Q: My oldest brother is in graduate school. My other brother is an undergraduate student. Do we include them as part of my parents’ household for Question 73?
It will depend on whether your parents provide at least 50% of your brother’s financial support. If your oldest brother is financially independent of your parents but your other brother still receives at least 50% of his financial support from your parents, you would include only one of your brothers.
Q: What investments should be included for Questions 91 and 92?
A: Refer to the FAFSA Notes on page 9 for detailed instructions. If you have specific questions, you can ask me or we can google and/or consult with FAFSA representatives on the phone.
Q: I don’t want my colleges to see the other colleges I’m applying to if I list them all out in Step 6.
A: Don’t worry. They will not see the other schools you list.