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What Every First-Generation College Student Should Know Before Filling Out The FAFSA

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Aug. 23 2021, Published 4:55 a.m. ET

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First-generation college students face challenges when navigating college, some of which are filling out the dreaded Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) on their own. Whether it’s language barriers, cultural differences, or other obstacles that you are facing, we’ve got you covered with everything you need to know.

Why You Need To Fill Out The FAFSA

FAFSA is It’s important that you fill this application out even if you’re not sure you want to go to school. This will help colleges and universities guide you financially and explain what your grant, scholarship, and loan options are. Keep these three deadlines in mind as you obtain your documents and get ready to fill this form out:

  • College and university: This is the deadline for the community college, college, or 4-year university you are applying to. Check the calendars of all schools you are applying to so you can fill out the FAFSA on time.

  • State: every state suggests or has a hard deadline for the FAFSA. This allows you to be considered for any possible state financial aid, including grants, scholarships, and work-study. You can use this tool to figure out your state’s deadline.

  • Federal: the upcoming deadline for FAFSA’s next cycle is June 30, 2021.

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College and university: This is the deadline for the community college, college, or 4-year university you are applying to. Check the calendars of all schools you are applying to so you can fill out the FAFSA on time.

State: every state suggests or has a hard deadline for the FAFSA. This allows you to be considered for any possible state financial aid, including grants, scholarships, and work-study. You can use this tool to figure out your state’s deadline.

Federal: the upcoming deadline for FAFSA’s next cycle is June 30, 2021.

You can’t fill out a FAFSA form once the deadline is up.

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How To Fill Out The FAFSA

Here are some of the steps you need to take to fill out the FAFSA:

  • Create a Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID. This is a username and password you can use to fill out the FAFSA every year, and which you can use to legally sign your form. Only you should have access to this information.

  • Ask your parents for their previous year’s tax returns. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, schools are asking students to use tax information from 2018 and then call their universities to address any loss of income caused by the COVID19 pandemic. You can use this tool from the IRS to retrieve them if they’ve been lost or are unavailable.

  • Asset records. This includes your parent or guardian’s current-day checking and savings account balances, investments they may own, bonds, and real estate property except for the home you are living in now (primary residence).

  • Personal documents, such as your Social Security Number (SSN) and driver’s license number. You must have an SSN to fill out the FAFSA, but the driver’s license number is not necessary if you don’t yet have it.

  • Information about untaxed income. If your parent(s) or guardian(s) receive child support payments, veteran’s non-education benefits, or interest income, you need to include this in your FAFSA. See more information here and here.

  • The names of all schools you are applying to. Even if you haven’t submitted your application or haven’t heard from them yet. FAFSA’s form allows you to submit the names of up to 10 schools, but you can use this guide if you’re applying to more than 10. Every school has a designated FAFSA code.

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Create a Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID. This is a username and password you can use to fill out the FAFSA every year, and which you can use to legally sign your form. Only you should have access to this information.

Ask your parents for their previous year’s tax returns. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, schools are asking students to use tax information from 2018 and then call their universities to address any loss of income caused by the COVID19 pandemic. You can use this tool from the IRS to retrieve them if they’ve been lost or are unavailable.

Asset records. This includes your parent or guardian’s current-day checking and savings account balances, investments they may own, bonds, and real estate property except for the home you are living in now (primary residence).

Personal documents, such as your Social Security Number (SSN) and driver’s license number. You must have an SSN to fill out the FAFSA, but the driver’s license number is not necessary if you don’t yet have it.

Information about untaxed income. If your parent(s) or guardian(s) receive child support payments, veteran’s non-education benefits, or interest income, you need to include this in your FAFSA. See more information here and here.

The names of all schools you are applying to. Even if you haven’t submitted your application or haven’t heard from them yet. FAFSA’s form allows you to submit the names of up to 10 schools, but you can use this guide if you’re applying to more than 10. Every school has a designated FAFSA code.

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Special Information For Immigrant Students And Children Of Immigrants

Unfortunately, undocumented students aren’t eligible for aid via the FAFSA form. Not all states provide in-state tuition for undocumented students, and many states don’t provide scholarships or other financial aid. However, some states do provide both aid and in-state tuition. It’s a good idea to check with local, state, and national immigrants’ rights organizations, your school counselor, or your school’s college counselor about possible options.

U.S. citizen children of undocumented immigrants are eligible for financial aid through FAFSA and can enter 000-00-0000 when the form asks for their SSN. Just make sure to have your SSN ready.

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Students with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) are still considered undocumented, but they can fill out the FAFSA because they have an SSN. Students with DACA are not eligible for federal aid. Instead, FAFSA data is used to help states determine the type of financial aid you may be eligible for.

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The Good News?

All students, regardless of citizenship status, can create a CSS Profile through the College Board. Students who meet certain income thresholds can apply for a fee waiver for their CSS Profile, and international students can also use the CSS Profile to learn about their scholarship and grant eligibility as well.

This article was written by Ingrid Cruz and originally appeared on Modern Brown Girl.

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