FAFSA Maintenance: Tips for Completing or Correcting FAFSA

Whether you have already begun filling out your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), or are looking to figure out where to start, the tips and guidance below can help you complete your next steps successfully.

How do I get started on my FAFSA?

The first step is to create a Federal Student Aid ID (FSA ID). Make sure to keep your username and password in a secure place as you will need it every year. These pieces of information will allow you to log in, complete, and sign your FAFSA electronically. Each student will need their own FSA ID, and one parent or guardian will need their own FAS ID. You will also need your tax return completed to submit a FAFSA.

What email should I use?

Make sure to use an email you will have continuous access to throughout your application. High school email addresses will be deleted and inaccessible after you graduate, so choose a reliable alternative.

How long do I have to complete a FAFSA once I start?

Any FAFSA that is started but not completed by all contributors within 45 days will be deleted, and you will need to start over. You don’t need to finish the FAFSA all in one sitting as you can save your progress along the way. Make a note on your calendar and set a reminder for the 45-day window to make sure you can complete it without restarting.

Where will I find information and updates?

Check your email inbox regularly for FAFSA reminders about corrections needed or missing items from Federal Student Aid or from individual colleges. These emails will only arrive to the student at the email address used on their FSA ID. Be sure to double-check your information and correct any errors as quickly as possible. Note: If you submit your FAFSA with an incorrect Social Security Number (SSN), you will need to connect with Federal Student Aid via phone or live chat.

Who needs to be involved in the process?

The FAFSA process requires two contributors: the student and the parent or guardian. A contributor provides information on the FASFA. Contributors will receive an email informing them that they have been identified as a contributor and create a StudentAid.gov account (FSA ID) if they do not already have one. Contributors log into the account using the FSA ID and review information relevant to them.

What are 'assets' according to FAFSA?

The FASFA will ask for current amounts of student and parent/guardian assets. A family’s reportable assets consider investments, savings, checking account balances, 529 plans, and more. Assets on the FASFA do not need to include equity in primary home and retirement accounts. Some additional tips about 529 plans: report parent-owned 529 plans as parent assets on the FAFSA. You only need to report 529 accounts for this student, not for their siblings. If others own the 529 plans (grandparents for instance, or an aunt or uncle), they are not considered parent assets. UGMA or UTMA savings plans are considered student assets.

Is my income as a student protected?

FAFSA protects student income: if the student makes less than $8,000 a year, that income is protected and will not factor into the SAI (Student Aid Index). 

Can I sign the FAFSA electronically?

Students and parents must electronically sign the FAFSA using their FSA ID and password. Make sure both signatures are in place before hitting submit.

Does the IRS need permission to share tax information?

Yes. Consent is required. Students and parents must also provide consent for the IRS to share necessary tax information with the FAFSA.

How do I know if I am considered "independent" for the FAFSA?

There are criteria for qualifying as an independent student. Specific situations such as age (24 or older), marriage, previous college degrees, legal guardian status, or military service can determine an independent status. Whether you are living with your parents or whether your parents include you on their tax return does not affect your status as a dependent student for FAFSA purposes. 

Are there still issues with the new version of the FAFSA?

Some students are experiencing “glitches” that prevent them from successfully submitting their FAFSA. If students need to do something more for their FAFSA to be successfully submitted, they will receive emails from VMI's Office of Financial Aid or from Federal Student Aid at the email address they used for their FSA ID.

How many colleges can I add?

You can list up to 20 colleges on your FAFSA. But remember, you need to apply for admission to each college to be considered for their financial aid package.

When should I submit my FAFSA each year?

The FAFSA priority deadline is March 1. If you miss the Priority Deadline, you should still complete the FAFSA and VMI Financial Aid Application. However, the availability of funds is limited.

Do I NEED to submit a FAFSA?

If you’re unsure whether to submit the FAFSA (due to thinking your income is too high), you should still file. VMI requires the FAFSA to be considered for need-based grants and scholarships, including those from our Alumni Foundation. The FAFSA should only take 10-15 minutes and is necessary if you plan to use student loans. In addition, changes to VMSDEP require a FAFSA to be submitted as well.

Do I need to submit a FAFSA every year, or just once?

Filing the FAFSA is not a one-time task; it’s an annual requirement for need-based financial aid consideration. Financial situations can change, affecting student eligibility.


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