Posted January 22, 2016

Current students: 8 tips for filling out your FAFSA

Stupid FAFSA, I hate you, FAFSA, don’t make me, FAFSA...may I please have some money, FAFSA? It’s that time of year—the time that sends shivers down our spines, and not just because of this weather. If you haven’t already, it’s time to fill out the five-letter acronym that might have you whispering four-letter words under your breath: FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Please note that those Fs don’t stand for “flesh-eating” and “fatal”; the form really isn’t that bad, and we’ve got some tips to get you through.


1. File early and often.

Well, not often; you only file once each year. But FAFSA applications for the 2016–2017 school year opened Jan.1, and Temple’s Director of Student Financial Services Craig Fennell recommends filing as early as possible: “Financial aid is a finite resource. You want to be first in line.” Do your taxes as soon as possible so you can file your FAFSA by the March 1 priority deadline.

2. Avoid shortcuts.
Remember that the first letter in the FAFSA acronym stands for “free.” The application may seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t cost anything, so be wary of paid services that purport to complete the form for you. You really can do this.

3. Be prepared.
Have the necessary information at the ready when you sit down to fill out the FAFSA. Also the necessary coffee and snacks. It doesn’t take quite as long the second (and third and fourth) time(s) around, as the form will populate your nonfinancial information, but plan to set aside an hour or two and get cozy with your computer. Who wants to go outside in this weather, anyway?

4. Don’t panic if you forgot your login.
The FAFSA requires students to create unique credentials, called FSA IDs, which you must use every year to sign in. If you’re not the kind of superhuman who carefully records such info and then keeps it somewhere safe for a year and then remembers that safe place, never fear: There’s a way to retrieve it.

5. Don’t panic when you see the form.
If you blocked it from your memory, the form is long. But totally manageable. Again: You really can do this. Carefully read the instructions, as the answers are almost always there. And help is available if you need it at the FAFSA site, or contact Temple’s Student Financial Services office.

6. Check your email and TUportal.
After completing your FAFSA, you’ll receive a summary in the form of a Student Aid Report (SAR). Fennell noted that carefully reviewing the SAR is crucial, because it presents an opportunity to correct any errors you non-superhumans may have made.

Financial aid applicants may also be selected for a verification process. If so (lucky you!), you’ll need to take additional steps to verify personal information. Be vigilant in checking TUportal and your Temple email address for any notifications that may require action. Because you won’t get your aid until verification is completed, and that's why you're doing this: $$$.

7. Read the fine print.
You’ll need to accept your aid package online through TUportal. You can also choose to decline loans and work study. Either way, you should know exactly what’s being offered. A good place to start is Temple’s financial aid fact sheet.

8. Pat yourself on the back.
You’re done! Nice job. That wasn’t so bad, was it?

For more information, Student Financial Services has a comprehensive list of tips for completing the FAFSA and Federal Student Aid offers a number of helpful videos on YouTube.