Prepare Now to Apply for Student Aid in the New Year

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2015-16 FAFSA® will be available beginning January 1

Harrisburg, PA (December 30, 2014)—The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) is advising college-bound high school seniors and their families to prepare for submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as early as possible after January 1, 2015.

Students must submit the FAFSA in order to determine their eligibility for most forms of need and income-based financial assistance, including the Pennsylvania State Grant, the Federal Pell Grant, the Pennsylvania Targeted Industry Program (PA-TIP), work-study programs, various scholarships - including the Ready to Succeed Scholarship Program - and federal student loans.

Students and families will be able to complete the FAFSA online at fafsa.gov beginning January 1 and will need to have the following information:

  • Social Security Numbers
  • Student's driver's license, if the student has one
  • Alien registration number, if the student is not a U.S. citizen
  • W-2 Forms
  • Records of untaxed income received, including workers' compensation, child support, payments to tax-deferred pension and savings plans, etc.
  • Federal income tax return (1040, 1040A, 1040EZ)
  • Current bank statements and records of stock, bonds and other investments

Students and families will also need to do the following in order to successfully submit their FAFSA.

For the latest financial aid information and helpful tips, upcoming deadlines and free financial aid workshops, join PHEAA on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pheaa.aid.

  1. Determine the filing deadline for each college to which the student is applying. Look for this date in the college catalog, admissions application or on the college's website. File the FAFSA as soon as possible after January 1 and before the earliest student aid deadline.
  2. Use estimated tax data if you will not file your tax return before the earliest financial aid deadline. After submitting your tax return, correct any income or tax info that has changed from what was initially submitted on the FAFSA.
  3. Both students and a parent or guardian should obtain a PIN (personal identification number) from the U.S. Department of Education so that you can electronically sign the FAFSA online. Request a PIN at pin.ed.gov. If you don't have a PIN, you can still fill out the FAFSA online. However, you will need to print and sign it, then mail it to the U.S. Department of Education.
  4. Many colleges and universities require students and their families to complete one or more supplemental aid applications. Complete these supplemental forms by the deadline given.
  5. First-time Pennsylvania State Grant applicants must also complete a State Grant Form to be considered for the need-based program. A link to the form can be found on the confirmation page of the online FAFSA application or at Account Access at PHEAA.org.

Students and families are also reminded to avoid using fee-based FAFSA submission websites, which are unnecessary and often a gateway to student aid scams. Additionally, they should be wary of any organization that offers assistance in completing the FAFSA for a fee, since many free resources, including PHEAA, are readily available.

PHEAA, in partnership with the Pennsylvania Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (PASFAA), will be offering free FAFSA Completion Sessions across the Commonwealth beginning in January and running through April. These sessions help families in completing the FAFSA with hands-on assistance from PHEAA's student aid experts.

A schedule of FAFSA Completion Sessions is available at PHEAA.org under College Planning - FAFSA.

Before selecting a school and submitting a FAFSA, students should carefully consider the many choices that are necessary for their higher education success plan that can help them avoid unnecessary student loan debt. To simplify this process, PHEAA developed MySmartBorrowing.org, which helps users in determining their possible higher education costs at different schools, future salary expectations for a particular degree, availability of related employment opportunities, and their potential ability to comfortably repay any student loans while also affording an independent lifestyle after graduation.

For additional information on the higher education financial aid process, schedules for helpful FAFSA Completion Sessions in the community, reminders of financial aid deadlines, and general information about planning for higher education, students are encouraged to visit PHEAA.org and to "like" PHEAA on Facebook at Facebook.com/pheaa.aid.