Which seemingly harmless collection of letters can send chills down the spines of college students across the country?
F-A-F-S-A — the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
This form requires quite a bit of sensitive information, so completing it is a daunting prospect for many students and their parents.
But have no fear. Here are some tips for filling out the FAFSA faster than ever.
How long does it take to fill out the FAFSA?
The answer depends on who you ask, but most people agree it takes between 30 minutes and one hour to fill out the FAFSA.
If you have all your documents ready — like your and your parents’ W2s, bank statements, Social Security numbers, and driver’s licenses — it’ll speed up the process significantly.
You also should grab last year’s tax returns, but in many cases, your tax information will be imported automatically through the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. Since the FAFSA now uses last year’s tax returns, you won’t have to estimate any tax information.
It’s wise to fill out the FAFSA as soon as it’s available: October 1 of the year before you need financial aid. Because schools have a limited amount of money, applying early could mean a bigger piece of the pie for you. It’ll also give you more time to negotiate your financial aid package.
How to fill out the FAFSA quickly
Ready to get started? Here are three tips for filling out the FAFSA more quickly.
1. Create a Federal Student Aid ID
You and your parent each will need to create an FSA ID. Don’t lose this number, as it’s difficult to retrieve.
It sometimes takes a while before you can use your FSA ID, so create yours a few days before you plan to complete the FAFSA.
2. Choose your schools
When you fill out the FAFSA, you’ll need to include the schools you’re applying to.
If you’re not sure yet, don’t panic. But you should brainstorm a list of up to 10 schools. You can add or remove them later.
And if you’re applying to any state schools, put them first on the list. If you don’t, you could miss out on state grants, according to Martha Holler, a Sallie Mae spokesperson quoted in Forbes.
3. Use a tool like FRANK
How long does it take to fill out the FAFSA? If you want the answer to be “not long at all,” try Frank — a free web tool that helps you fill out the FAFSA.
“We are really proud that the language and organization of the form is easy enough for an 18-year-old to file on their own in under five minutes,” said Stefanie Buffa, a customer care manager for the company.
Frank says it’s “everything the Department of Education is not” — “smart, transparent, and simple” — and in just a few months, it’s helped more than 60,000 families snag more than $1.5 billion in federal aid.
Its users seem to agree that it makes the process easier. On Facebook, its Verified Reviews tab shows a rating of 4.7 out of five.
Filling out the FAFSA doesn’t have to take hours. If you prepare and use the tips above, you’ll be applying for financial aid before you know it.
Need a student loan?Here are our top student loan lenders of 2019!
|1 Important Disclosures for Ascent.
Before taking out private student loans, you should explore and compare all financial aid alternatives, including grants, scholarships, and federal student loans and consider your future monthly payments and income. Applying with a cosigner may improve your chance of getting approved and could help you qualify for a lower interest rate. Ascent Student Loans may be funded by Richland State Bank (RSB). Ascent Student Loan products are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application, verification of application information and certification of loan amount by a participating school. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions, and certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. Ascent is a federally registered trademark of Turnstile Capital Management (TCM) and may be used by RSB under limited license. Richland State Bank is a federally registered service mark of Richland State Bank.
* Application times vary depending on the applicants ability to supply the necessary information for submission.
2 Important Disclosures for College Ave.
College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.
Information advertised valid as of 4/1/2019. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.
3 Important Disclosures for Discover.
* The Sallie Mae partner referenced is not the creditor for these loans and is compensated by Sallie Mae for the referral of Smart Option Student Loan customers.
4 = Sallie Mae Disclaimer: Click here for important information. Terms, conditions and limitations apply.
5 Important Disclosures for SunTrust.
Before applying for a private student loan, SunTrust recommends comparing all financial aid alternatives including grants, scholarships, and both federal and private student loans. To view and compare the available features of SunTrust private student loans, visit https://www.suntrust.com/loans/student-loans/private.
Certain restrictions and limitations may apply. SunTrust Bank reserves the right to change or discontinue this loan program without notice. Availability of all loan programs is subject to approval under the SunTrust credit policy and other criteria and may not be available in certain jurisdictions.
SunTrust Bank, Member FDIC. ©2019 SunTrust Banks, Inc. SUNTRUST, the SunTrust logo and Custom Choice Loan are trademarks of SunTrust Banks, Inc. All rights reserved.
6 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Additional terms and conditions apply. For more details see LendKey
7 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
A government loan is made according to rules set by the U.S. Department of Education. Government loans have fixed interest rates, meaning that the interest rate on a government loan will never go up or down.
Government loans also permit borrowers in financial trouble to use certain options, such as income-based repayment, which may help some borrowers. Depending on the type of loan that you have, the government may discharge your loan if you die or become permanently disabled.
Depending on what type of government loan that you have, you may be eligible for loan forgiveness in exchange for performing certain types of public service. If you are an active-duty service member and you obtained your government loan before you were called to active duty, you are entitled to interest rate and repayment benefits for your loan.
A private student loan is not a government loan and is not regulated by the Department of Education. A private student loan is instead regulated like other consumer loans under both state and federal law and by the terms of the promissory note with your lender.
If your private student loan has a fixed interest rate, then that rate will never go up or down. If your private student loan has a variable interest rate, then that rate will vary depending on an index rate disclosed in your application. If the interest rate on the new private student loan is less than the interest rate on your government loans, your payments will be less if you refinance.
If you don’t pay a private student loan as agreed, the lender can refer your loan to a collection agency or sue you for the unpaid amount.
Remember also that like government loans, most private loans cannot be discharged if you file bankruptcy unless you can demonstrate that repayment of the loan would cause you an undue hardship. In most bankruptcy courts, proving undue hardship is very difficult for most borrowers.
8 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
|4.24% – 13.24%1||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.07% – 11.32%2||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|4.84% – 13.49%3||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.50% – 11.35%*,4||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.25% – 13.25%5||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|6.08% – 7.22%6||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|3.95% – 9.81%7||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|4.45% – 12.42%8||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|