How to Use the FAFSA Mobile App to Get Student Aid

 August 25, 2020
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How to Use the FAFSA Mobile App to Get Student Aid

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If you want financial aid for college, you’ll need to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Not only can you submit this application online, but you can also fill it out on your phone with the FAFSA app. Simply download the myStudentAid app for Apple or Android, and you can apply for financial aid right from your phone.

Here’s what you should know about the mobile FAFSA app and how it can help, even beyond just filing the application:

Mobile FAFSA app: the basics

Federal Student Aid distributed $246 billion in aid to undergraduate and graduate students in the 2018-19 academic year, according to the College Board. But you can’t get your hands on any of that assistance unless you submit the FAFSA.

In an effort to make the application more accessible, Federal Student Aid turned the FAFSA into an easy-to-use mobile app in 2018. 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.”

Word of caution about using the app

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.

How to fill out the FAFSA on your phone

When you fill out the FAFSA on your phone, you’ll see similar forms as you would on the desktop site.

Image: myStudentAid

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, which 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).

Image: myStudentAid

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).

Image: myStudentAid

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 website. So while the app is a useful tool, don’t forget to learn about financial aid on Federal Student Aid’s website.

Final note: 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 2018-19 year, for instance, the average, full-time undergrad received $15,210 in aid.

This kind of aid can go a long way toward covering college costs, and it might mean 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’re generally better 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.