Prepare Now for the New Year's Student Aid Application Season

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The 2016-17 FAFSA® will be available beginning January 1

Harrisburg, PA (December 21, 2015)—The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) is encouraging high school seniors and their families to prepare for completing the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) as soon as possible after January 1, 2016.

The FAFSA is the federal form that all college-bound high school seniors must submit to be considered for almost all types of need-based financial assistance, including the Pennsylvania State Grant, the Federal Pell Grant, work-study programs, the Pennsylvania Targeted Industry Program (PA-TIP), various scholarships, some school-based aid, and federal student loans for the 2016-2017 academic year.

"The FAFSA is the single most important application students must complete in order to be eligible for most forms of student financial aid," said Representative William Adolph, PHEAA Board Chairman. "Proper preparation can be the key to completing the application quickly and easily."

Beginning January 1, 2016, students and families will be able to complete the FAFSA online at fafsa.ed.gov. Students and families will need the following information and documents when beginning the application process:

  • Social Security Numbers
  • Student's driver's license, if applicable
  • 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

The following is a summary of additional things students and families will need to do to submit their FAFSA.

  1. Identify the filing deadline for each college to which you are applying. Look for this date in the college catalog or admissions application material or on the college's website. File the FAFSA as soon as possible after January 1 and before the earliest student aid deadline date for the schools to which you are applying.
  2. Both students and a parent should apply for a Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID, comprised of a username and password, for use in completing and signing the FAFSA. Families with more than one child attending college can use the same parent FSA ID to sign all applications. You can sign up for your FSA ID now at https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa/filling-out/fsaid.
  3. Use estimated tax data if you will not file your tax return before the earliest financial aid deadline. After you submit your tax return, correct any income or tax info that is different from what you initially submitted on your FAFSA.
  4. Many colleges and universities require students and their families to complete one or more supplemental aid applications. Send these supplemental forms to the school 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 should only complete the FAFSA.gov website; avoid any dot com sites, which often charge a fee for what can be accomplished for free," said Senator Wayne D. Fontana, PHEAA Board Vice Chairman. "The FAFSA is not difficult - especially if you are prepared - and should take about a half hour for most families to complete."

Before submitting a FAFSA, students should carefully consider the many decisions that are necessary for their higher education success plan while avoiding the potential pitfalls of unnecessary student loan borrowing. To simplify this process, PHEAA developed MySmartBorrowing.org, which provides estimators that assist students 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 repay student loans comfortably 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.