Helpful Hints for Filling out the FAFSA

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Sarah O'Keefe--Kate McPhillips ponders how to fill out her FAFSA effectively.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is the most important and most troublesome application for receiving financial aid. The FAFSA is what allows California residents to qualify for a Cal Grant, Pell Grant and the two different loans offered by the U.S. government.

The FAFSA is also important because it allows California Baptist University to determine the correct amount of aid a student is eligible for from the government funds based on the pertinent Estimated Family Contribution number, which the government believes is the amount a family can afford to pay annually.

Here are some helpful hints when filling out the FAFSA:

The first thing to do is visit the official FAFSA website, www.FAFSA.ed.gov. Any other website will take the information and charge the user anywhere from $40 to $100 to help fill out the application.

In order to successfully fill out the FAFSA, you and your parent’s tax information is required as well as your current bank statements and any other records regarding current business and investments.

For those who reside permanently in California, the FAFSA is due by March 2 to apply for the Cal Grant.

A permanent resident is a student who is either under the age of 18 and has at least one parent living in California, the student has lived in California for two years with a responsible non-parent adult who has been a legal resident of California for one year or a parent is in the U.S. Armed Forces and stationed in California on active duty.

A student 18 years or older is considered a California resident if he or she has lived in California for at least one year.

Some families do not have their taxes filed by the preferred time to file a FAFSA. But the FAFSA can be submitted if applicants use the previous year’s tax return information to estimate the current year’s data while also selecting “will file” in regards to the 2010 tax return questions.

Once the student and the parents have filed their 2010 taxes, they must then go back to the FAFSA and amend it, changing the selection from “will file” to “already filed” and changing other related questions, such as the adjusted gross income for self and parents.

In order to apply for the Cal Grant, the student must submit a GPA Verification Form.

“If a student has less than 24 units, they must go back to their high school to get the form filled out,” Kelli Welzel, CBU Financial Aid advisor, said. “However, this is only required if the student is not currently a Cal Grant recipient.”

Lastly, make sure to have your Personal Identification Number around in order to validate your FAFSA and electronically sign the form. The PIN will be the same four numbers that was used in the previous years.

If you are new to the FAFSA, it can easily be created by filling out the form. If a PIN has been lost or forgotten, visit http://www.pin.ed.gov and a few questions will allow you to reset it.

The FAFSA may seem like a daunting task but with the right preparation it can be a very smooth process that allows the applicant to continue their college education affordably.

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