As you know, you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in order to apply for state, federal and institutional financial aid as soon as possible after October 1. Even if you doubt you’ll qualify for need-based financial aid, completing the FAFSA makes you eligible for some student loans and is a requirement when applying for scholarships and grants from your school.
Are there ever fees for filling out the FAFSA?
As its name implies, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid is just that – free. Filing online will cost you nothing but a little time, and there are many sources of free help for completing the FAFSA form, should you need it. The only time the FAFSA comes with fees is if you decide to use a paid preparer to fill out your forms, but this is usually not necessary.
Why is FAFSA charging me?
You may come across websites that offer help to file your FAFSA for a fee. These sites are not affiliated with or endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education. When filing your FAFSA form, go directly to fafsa.ed.gov to ensure you’re accessing the official, free form (the official government-owned FAFSA website ends with .gov). And, never give out your credit card or bank account number. Not only will you be paying unnecessary fees, but you could put yourself at risk for identity theft.
What if you need help filling out the FAFSA?
If you need assistance with filling out the FAFSA, or you just need more information:
- Visit the gov website, and read the “Help and Hints” located on the right side of any FAFSA entry page.
- Contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center by clicking the link in the “Contact Us” section of the “Help” page on the FAFSA.gov website.
- Ask your high school guidance counselor or college advisor for help.
- Contact the financial aid office at the college you plan to attend/are attending.
- Get one-on-one help through College Goal Sunday, sponsored by the YMCA and the Lumina Foundation.
- Check out the Nitro FAFSA Guide, which includes information about why each question is being asked, how to answer each question and additional tips to help you with the FAFSA.
What if someone else submitted your FAFSA?
If you do decide to pay someone to give you help or advice to complete your FAFSA or to complete the FAFSA on behalf of your child, that person must list him or herself as a “preparer” at the end of your FAFSA. This professional preparer should provide his or her Social Security number or Employer Identification Number (EIN) to verify to the federal government that the information he or she reported is correct to the best of his or her knowledge. People who provide free advice, such as a high school guidance counselor or college financial aid administrator, do not have to list themselves in the preparer section of your FAFSA.
Minimize mistakes for maximum savings
Keep the “free” in Free Application for Federal Student Aid by filing the application yourself at fafsa.ed.gov. And before you file your FAFSA, save even more money by avoiding these five common FAFSA mistakes.