These days, there’s an app for everything — including the FAFSA (the Free Application for Federal Student Aid). The Department of Education has gone mobile, and you can now file for student financial aid right from your phone.
Download the myStudentAid app for Apple or Android, and you can access the FAFSA for the 2019-2020 school year. If you’d prefer to stick with the non-mobile approach, you can also fill out the form on the recently redesigned FAFSA website.
So what do you need to know about submitting the FAFSA from your phone? And how can you go about ensuring your access to government grants, work-study and student loans for the coming school year?
Introducing the mobile FAFSA app: What you need to know
Federal Student Aid distributed $125.4 billion in grant aid to undergraduate and graduate students in the 2016-2017 academic year, according to College Board. But you can’t get your hands on any of that assistance unless you submit the FAFSA.
Unfortunately, only 3 out of 5 high school seniors submit this important form. Whether people are misinformed about the FAFSA or think it’s too daunting, they could be missing out on their share of billions of dollars of critical aid to help pay for school.
In an effort to make the application more accessible, Federal Student Aid has turned the FAFSA into an easy-to-use mobile app. After downloading the app on your phone, you can sign in with your username and FSA ID.
You or your parents can then fill out the required forms, and the myStudentAid app will offer guidance along the way if you get stuck. Note that the app uses the same data protections as the online version of the form, and the government promises a “secure experience.”
At the same time, it’s probably best not to use the app on public Wi-Fi, as hackers can more easily access your personal information when you’re on an unsecured public network. If possible, stick to using the app while on a private secure network, such as your home Wi-Fi.
There is also one apparent drawback to using the app instead of the desktop version. Only a handful of states — including Iowa, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Vermont — let you transfer your FAFSA information directly into your application for state financial aid. When you complete the forms through the desktop version, you might find more states participate in this easy data transfer.
All in all, though, the FAFSA mobile app is an easy and convenient way to apply for financial aid right from your phone if you prefer that approach to using a computer.
Filling out the FAFSA form on your phone
When you fill out the FAFSA on your phone, you’ll see the same forms as you would on the desktop site.
Along with providing your personal information, you’ll indicate what schools you’re applying to. Federal Student Aid will send this material to your schools, who can then put together your financial aid package.
Additionally, your parents will provide their personal information and financial details. As with the desktop version, your parents can import tax information from the previous year using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.
Not sure which forms are for you and which are for your parents? To simplify matters, the app also customizes its appearance based on who’s using it. When you start, you can select parent, student, or preparer (if a third party is helping you fill it out).
Once every field is complete, you can hit submit and call it a day. Then all you’ll have to do is wait for your college acceptance letters to roll in (and keep applying for private grants and scholarships in the meantime).
Extra features of the myStudentAid app
While the FAFSA form is the main feature of the myStudentAid app, it also has some additional functions you might find useful.
For example, the myCollegeScorecard feature lets you learn about and compare colleges. And if you’ve borrowed federal aid in the past, the myFederalLoans feature lets you view your student aid history.
You can also manage your username and password, as well as find contact information for Federal Student Aid if you have any questions. Plus, the app offers guidance as you fill out the FAFSA to help make sure you enter all your information correctly.
All that said, you can still find a wealth of information about aid programs and student loan repayment plans on the regular StudentAid.gov website. So while the app is a useful tool, don’t forget to learn about financial aid on Federal Student Aid’s website.
Submit the FAFSA as soon as you can
Even though the FAFSA might seem daunting, it’s a fairly straightforward form. The most challenging aspect is probably filling in financial information, although fortunately the IRS Data Retrieval Tool makes it easy to import details from the previous year’s tax returns.
Don’t shy away from submitting this free application, as it’s the key that can unlock the door to thousands of dollars in student aid. In the 2016-2017 year, for instance, the average ,full-time undergrad received $14,400 in aid.
This kind of aid can go a long way toward covering college costs, and it means you won’t have to borrow as much in student loans. So make sure to fill out the FAFSA, and submit it as soon as possible after the application period opens on Oct. 1, since some aid is doled out on a first-come, first-served basis.
Outside of federal aid and scholarships, you might also cover college costs with private student loans. But federal loans for undergraduates tend to have the lowest interest rates and best borrower protections, so you generally best off maxing out your eligibility for federal aid before turning to private lenders.
By doing everything you can to get federal financial aid, you’ll be one step closer to earning your valuable degree without breaking the bank.