10 Things You Need to Complete the FAFSA

10thingscompletefafsa

With the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, open soon, it’s a good time to plan a little time to complete it. Before you start, make sure you have these items available if they are applicable to you.

10 Things You Need to Complete the FAFSA

 

Item Dependent Students Parents
List of schools you wish to send FAFSA results to

X

FSA ID username and password

X

X

Biographical information like Social Security number, drivers license number, birthdate, marriage and divorce dates

X

X

Alien registration number for non-citizens

X

X

2017 income tax returns, W-2s and other records of money earned in 2017

X

X

2017 bank statements and investment records

X

X

2017 untaxed income records

X

X

2017 businesses and farms records

X

X

Child support received or paid

X

X

Marriage status and date of separation or divorce

X

X

By: Iowa Student Loan

FAFSA: What You Need to Know

If college is in the picture for the 2019–2020 academic year, it is almost the time to file the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Here are answers to some of the most important questions about the FAFSA.

Why should I file the FAFSA?

Regardless of financial situation, filing the FAFSA is the first step to qualifying for many forms of aid, not just those based on income. Federal Student Aid’s Myths About Financial Aid (PDF) provides more information on why all students should submit the FAFSA.

Whose information goes on the FAFSA?

The student who will attend college will provide biographical and financial information on the FAFSA. Dependent students, whether or not they are financially supported by their parents, will need to provide parent or guardian biographical and financial information.

Is the FAFSA only for federal aid?

The federal government uses the income, family size and other information provided on the FAFSA to award federal aid in the form of grants, work-study and loans. You need to file the FAFSA to qualify for federal work-study and federal student loans. In addition, many states and colleges and some private organizations use the information to determine eligibility for grants, scholarships and other aid.

When should I start?

The 2019–2020 FAFSA opens Oct. 1 and is available until June 30, 2019. Some types of aid have limited funds, so the earlier the FAFSA is completed and submitted, the better the chances of receiving more financial aid from those programs.

Remember to complete a new FAFSA the fall before each new college year.

What information will I need?

The student should create an FSA ID to make it easier to complete and access the FAFSA. You can also gather identifying information (Social Security numbers for student and parent, driver’s license number, and Alien Registration number if applicable); federal tax information or returns from 2017; records on any untaxed income; and balances for cash, savings and checking accounts, investments, and business and farm assets for both the student and parents.

Note: You may be able to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to pull in applicable tax information while you complete the FAFSA, but this information will not be displayed on the online FAFSA or your Student Aid Report.

If you have any questions on the information you will need to provide, start by reviewing the Completing the FAFSA guide (PDF).

Where do I start?

You can complete your FAFSA online at https://fafsa.gov.

You may also download a PDF form to print and complete or call (877) 433-7827 to request a form be mailed to you. Some colleges may allow you to file your FAFSA at their financial aid office.

Do I need to do it all at one sitting?

You may save the information entered into the FAFSA online if you need to stop before completing it. Then, when you’re ready to finish, log back in to complete the form, sign and submit it.

What will happen next?

Within three weeks after submission, you’ll receive a Student Aid Report, which summarizes the data you submitted. You should review this report carefully and follow the instructions for correcting any mistakes.

Your Student Aid Report will also tell you if you’ve been selected for verification. This is not necessarily an indication that something is wrong; verification may be based on a random selection or because one or more of the schools listed requires all FAFSAs to be verified. If you are selected, follow the instructions to verify your information with the requested documents.

Federal Student Aid also shares the information you submitted with the colleges you listed when you completed the FAFSA, your state and the states of colleges you entered. Each college you have been accepted to will follow its own timeline to send you a financial aid award packet detailing the financial aid available to you if you choose to attend that school.

More information is available from Federal Student Aid.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Addressing Financial Aid Myths

Have you heard that applying for financial aid isn’t worth it because your parents earn too much or because it takes too long to complete? Don’t be tempted by these common myths to skip completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You could be passing up free money. And that’s the last thing you want to do when it comes to paying for college.

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Financial Aid Myth: You need to have your taxes filed before starting the FAFSA.

The FAFSA now requires tax information from the “prior prior” tax year, so the deadline for filing the required taxes is the April before completing the current FAFSA. If you or your parents missed that tax filing deadline and you still need to file taxes, you should estimate tax and income information for the FAFSA and correct that information by logging in and updating your FAFSA after filing the appropriate tax return. For help with questions about required income information, call (800) FED-AID.

Financial Aid Myth: You won’t receive financial aid because of how much money your parents earn.

Income is not the only determining factor when it comes to whether or not you’re eligible for federal student aid. And there is no income level that automatically disqualifies you for aid. Taking the time to complete the FAFSA is the only way to qualify for federal student aid and you won’t know if you qualify until you do that step, so completing the FAFSA every year you are in school is important.

Also, did you know that the FAFSA is used for more than just federal financial aid? State and school aid is also awarded based on your FAFSA results. If you don’t complete the FAFSA, you could also be missing out on these other sources of financial aid.

Financial Aid Myth: The FAFSA is difficult to complete.

The FAFSA has changed a lot since it was first introduced, and the application is revised often to make the process smoother. The online process uses logic to limit questions to ones that are relevant and completing it online instead of filling out a paper application lessens the chance for mistakes. According to the federal government, completing the FAFSA now takes less than 21 minutes on average. That’s not too bad if the outcome is grants, scholarships and other funds to help lower your college expenses, is it?

Financial Aid Myth: You only need to complete the FAFSA once.

If you complete the FAFSA before starting college, you may think you don’t need to file it ever again. But you should file the FAFSA every year as soon after Oct. 1 as possible if you intend to enroll in classes during the next academic year. This is especially important if your family’s circumstances change because you may be eligible for new or more aid next year. Even if there are no major changes to your family, though, other factors such as how financial need is calculated may mean you are eligible for different options next year. And, once you complete the FAFSA the first time, it will take even less time to complete the following years.

Financial Aid Myth: Your parents are not supporting you financially in college so you don’t have to include their information on the FAFSA.

Unfortunately you may still be considered a dependent student for federal student aid purposes, even if you are paying for all your college expenses yourself. You will need to answer questions in the FAFSA to determine if you are considered a dependent student or an independent student. If you are considered a dependent student, you will need to report your parents’ information on the FAFSA. If you are unsure how what type of student you are, contact your college or university’s financial aid office for assistance.

By: Iowa Student Loan

12 Ways to Get Involved

12-Ways-to-Get-Involved

You may have heard that you’ll have plenty of things to do outside of class once you get to know others in your dorm or classes, but if you’d like to be more involved or if it’s been hard to make connections with other students, think about trying something new.

1. Join (or start) a club

Your school may offer an activities fair or have a special office or website where you can see what clubs exist and get connected with members. Check postings around campus as well. If you don’t find an organization that interests you, consider starting one. It might just take a faculty sponsor or manifesto.

2. Work for the school paper or social media sites

Even if you don’t have a writing background, these organizations are often looking for correspondents and bloggers.

3. Participate in student government

You can choose a level you’re comfortable with — from a floor representative in the dorm to student body president. Explore opportunities to test your leadership skills.

4. Become a tutor or teaching assistant

Put your skills to work and earn some money while meeting other students and faculty.

5. Participate in intramural or club sports

Never played dodge ball? Been awhile since you swung at a softball? Don’t worry; you’ll find all levels of competition and you may find a new activity to love.

6. Look for opportunities to serve your campus and community

Blood drives and classroom outreach are common activities on college campuses and may help you establish connections in the larger community.

7. Join a sorority or fraternity

Greek organizations exist for a variety of purposes, from community service to academic excellence to social and professional aspects.

8. Attend campus events

Go to the big game on Saturday afternoon or the picnic on the quad. If you don’t want to go alone, ask someone from a class or your dorm floor to go with you.

9. Get a campus or community job

Serve coffee in the union or pancakes at the diner.

10. Join a preprofessional organization

Many professional organizations have student societies that can help you achieve experience, network and meet mentors in your field.

11. Participate in research

Whether you become a lab assistant or agree to participate in surveys or studies, research involvement can help you meet others and gain valuable insight.

12. Go to lectures, performances and presentations on campus

Many schools offer special events like author discussions, professional panels, comedian or theatrical performances and guest lectures.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Tips to Study Smarter

Tips-to-Study-Smarter

You’ve probably heard how you have to study more and learn to manage your time better to keep up with college work. It’s easy to say “study smarter,” but how do you actually accomplish that? Try out some of these tips to up your studying game.

Use a daily planner and block off time each day for studying and homework

Whether you have a test or assignment due the next day or not, use that time every day to study. Sticking to the routine will help ingrain the habit of studying well ahead of deadlines.

Review your class notes daily and fill in missing details

You might want to compare notes with a friend to see what each of you picked up on for clues about what is most important or to look for differences to make sure you didn’t miss anything. Don’t wait until the night before a test to look at your notes, they might make no sense weeks after you’ve written them down.

Set goals

If you’re reading a novel for a class, figure out how many chapters you need to read per day to finish on time and aim for that goal each day. Set a goal to memorize 25 new terms a day for weekly tests. Or, plan to concentrate on one math formula so that you understand not only the “how” but the “why” and can complete the formula with several different figures.

Study for 35-45 minutes and then take a break, no more than 10 minutes

Giving your brain and yourself a short break will give you time to digest what you have just reviewed or worked on. Plus, it will help you concentrate better when get back to work.

Try studying in different places

If the weather is nice, think about doing some reading outdoors. Need to really concentrate? Head to the library. If you want to be comfortable, find a good spot in your room; just make sure there are no distractions while you review your class notes. Studying in different places can help reduce boredom.

Do more with the material

Try turning headings into questions and answering them after each section. Or write down answers to focus questions instead of just skimming the questions before reading the sections. You might connect the topic to your own experiences, such as connecting a family vacation at Yellowstone National Park to President Woodrow Wilson creating the National Park Service in 1916, and writing a few notes for yourself. By engaging other areas of your brain, you may remember the material longer than the 30 minutes it takes you to read a chapter.

After tests, compare your notes with what was included in the exam

If your notes included information about what was asked, you’re on the right track. If your notes were lacking details that were covered in a number of questions, don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice from the instructor, a teaching assistant, a tutor or even a friend who is doing well in the class.

Try different study methods to find the one that works best for you

Some students thrive on reviewing flash cards while others need to reread entire chapters of their textbooks. See which method works best for you while your workload is lighter; it will pay off when you have more work to do.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Parents Have Chance at $1,000 College Savings Deposit

Parents of students in sixth through 12th grades have a chance to give their college savings accounts a boost with the Save Now, Save Later: College Savings Plan Parent Giveaway.

Enter the Save Now, Save Later Giveaway

Entering its fifth year, the Save Now, Save Later program gives Iowa parents a chance at one of 50 individual $1,000 deposits into a College Savings Iowa® plan for an eligible child.

The program is open to Iowa residents who are parents or legal guardians of a student in grades six through 12 at an Iowa middle or high school.

“Parents are an important part of helping their children financially prepare for college by providing either financial assistance or educating them about debt,” said Steve McCullough, president and CEO of Iowa Student Loan. “With this program, parents can potentially do both with access to online educational resources, as well as a chance to win a $1,000 contribution, which can make an impact on a college student’s finances.”

There is no purchase necessary to enter the program. As part of the registration process, parents view the Parent Handbook, an online, self-exploratory educational module. The module is a series of valuable tips, categorized by relevant topics, to help families of students in middle and high school prepare for success in college and other postsecondary options.

Iowa Student Loan works directly with College Savings Iowa on the giveaway. College Savings Iowa is the state’s direct-sold 529 program, administered by State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald. Parents who are chosen as winners can have the deposit made to an existing account for the registered student, or a new account can be set up upon winning the giveaway.

“The program has great information to help point you in the right direction in how to pay for college,” said Amanda Salyars, a 2017 winner from Muscatine. “Winning $1,000 certainly helps too!”

Registration for the program runs now through Oct. 21. Winners will be selected in November and announced after they are notified.

Enter the Save Now, Save Later Giveaway

Learn more about the giveaway

Parents interested in learning more about the Save Now, Save Later giveaway, or in entering the giveaway, can visit www.iowastudentloan.org/SaveNow for full giveaway description, official rules, registration and frequently asked questions.

By: Iowa Student Loan

3 Budget Basics for Middle Schoolers

If they haven’t begun already, current middle school students will soon be considering part-time jobs, saving for college and paying for their own expenses. You can help your child set a strong financial foundation with these three budget basics.

1. Understand the value of money.

Help your student appreciate the value of money by encouraging them to earn their own. By babysitting, doing yard work, helping around the house or otherwise working for money, your child will soon learn how much work is required to earn $1, $10 and $100.

Then, help your student complete the picture by involving them in decisions about purchases. Ask them to help you make decisions about common expenses like groceries or clothing. Encourage them to think about the quality, quantity and other features of specific brands for the cost.

2. Know the importance of goal-setting.

Having specific financial goals provides a framework for decision-making. If your student is saving for a particular purchase, discuss how many hours they will need to work for pay for it. Encourage them to consider whether making other purchases in the meantime is worth delaying the larger purchase.

If your student is saving for a major purchase such as a car or college, help them set smaller goals, like saving a certain amount per month. This is a good opportunity to research different methods of saving, like 529 plans and saving accounts, and the advantages of each, as well as the effects of compound interest over long periods of time.

3. Compare earnings to purchases.

If your student has his or her own spending money, encourage expense tracking. Then discuss how your child is spending money and whether they are surprised by the amount spent on specific purchases. Tracking spending helps consumers see their own habits and pinpoint how to cut back to improve their overall financial situation.

After tracking spending for a time, you and your student can then use a basic budget to compare earnings and income to expenses and savings goals. Multiple online tools and apps are available for free to get you started. As your student builds assets and becomes more responsible for expenses, add to your budget template or move to a more robust version.

By: Iowa Student Loan

5 Reasons to Start a 529 Plan Today

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Saving for your child’s college education can be stressful, but it can also be one the best things you can do to help ensure he or she has a solid financial start in life. If you’re considering different savings options, check out these benefits of a 529 plan.

1. Plans are good nationwide.

Most states, including Iowa, and a number of institutions offer 529 plans, and the plans are not restrictive to the state you live in or where the student attends college. That means parents can take out a College Savings Iowa 529 Plan and the student can use the funds at any eligible school in the country and even some colleges or universities outside the United States.

2. Anyone can open a 529 plan account.

Parents, grandparents and even friends can open a 529 plan for a potential college student. You can even start a 529 plan for your own education.

Parents: Enter to win a $1,000 contribution to a 529 plan.

3. There are tax benefits.

While contributions are not deductible at the federal level, Iowa taxpayers may deduct some contributions from their adjusted gross income. When the plan owners deduct funds to pay eligible college costs, that money is not taxed. For the beneficiary, all earnings on the 529 plan grow tax free.

4. Plans are flexible.

You can choose to change the investment options up to twice per calendar year. Plan owners can make regular contributions, open an account with an initial deposit and never make another contribution, or make deposits whenever it’s convenient. You can even change the beneficiary if the person the account was opened for decides not to attend college.

5. You stay in control of the account.

When you open a 529 account for your child, or anyone else, you maintain control of the account and how the funds are spent. The money is not automatically transferred to the student to spend.

By: Iowa Student Loan

11 Benefits of a College Saving Plan

Most states offer college saving plans, or 529 plans, that allow families to invest money that can later be used for qualified higher-education expenses. These plans offer savings and tax benefits over other ways of saving for college. Here are 11 reasons you may want to consider a 529 plan, such as a College Savings Iowa plan.

1. You can choose, and change, your investment strategy.

College saving plans offer a variety of investment tracks to allow you to decide how to invest contributions. You may choose from among recommended investment tracks based on the age of the beneficiary and your comfort level with risk. Or you may wish to choose from among individual portfolios of specific bond and stock funds.

After choosing your initial investment strategy, you can make changes over time. You may make changes to existing contributions twice a year.

2. You receive tax benefits.

Your 529 assets grow deferred from federal and state income taxes as long as the money remains in the plan. Many states also offer additional state tax advantages for in-state residents.

3. Qualified withdrawals are not subject to taxes.

Withdrawals used to pay for qualified higher-education expenses are also tax-free. This means any growth from your principal investments in a 529 plan used for qualified expenses will never be included in your income tax.

4. The assets are less impactful on financial aid.

The formula used to calculate financial aid treats 529 plan assets more favorably than it treats savings or investments owned by the student. According to savingforcollege.com, a maximum of 5.64% of all parental assets, including 529 plans owned by a parent or a dependent student, is counted toward the expected family contribution for college by the federal financial aid formula, compared to 20% of student assets.

5. Anyone can start or contribute to a plan.

You don’t need to be related to the student you name as the beneficiary of a 529 plan you open. This means you can be a parent, grandparent or friend of the student who will use the money, or you can be the student. There are no income limits, age limits or annual contribution limits for account owners.

Someone who would like to make a gift to the student can also make one-time contributions to an existing account.

6. Minimum investments are small.

College Savings Iowa allows initial investments or contributions of $25 or more and a minimum of $15 for employers that offer payroll deduction. Investments in 529 plans can be as large or small as comfortable for families.

7. You are not limited to your state’s plan.

You may choose to use any state’s 529 plan even if you don’t live there or the student doesn’t intend to attend college in that state.

8. The money can be used for attendance and other expenses at a wide variety of institutions.

The student beneficiary can use the money to attend any eligible two- or four-year college, postgraduate program, trade or vocational school, online college and university programs and even some international institutions or study-abroad programs.

Besides tuition, money can be applied to other qualified higher-education expenses like fees, books, housing, meals, supplies, computers and printers, software and internet access.

9. Plans are transferable.

If the student beneficiary named on the plan doesn’t need the money, it can be transferred to an eligible family member of the student, like a sibling, child, parent or spouse.

10. You can always withdraw the money if needed.

If the student earns a scholarship or enrolls in a military academy, you can withdraw up to the amount of the scholarship or the value of the education tax-free. If the student passes away or becomes disabled and is unable to attend college, there is also no penalty for withdrawals.

If you withdraw money for any other reason than these circumstances and the withdrawal is not used for a qualified higher-education expense, a 10% federal tax penalty will may apply to any earnings. (You would receive the full value of your contributions minus any administration fees.) A tax adviser can help you understand tax consequences of non-qualified withdrawals from a 529 plan.

11. A 529 plan may encourage college attendance and graduation.

Researchers have found that when money is set aside for college, families save more. Even when budgets are tight, families with even relatively small amounts of money earmarked for college find creative ways to save more. Additionally, the perceived value of higher education increased and a high percentage of parents felt their children would finish college.

By: Iowa Student Loan

High Schoolers: Start Saving Today

Start-Saving-Today

Whether you’re planning on college next year or just starting your freshman year in high school, you can take steps to save money today that will help you with college costs in the future.

Open a Savings Account

If you don’t have your own savings account, now is a great time to get one. Ask your parents for advice or visit with an account specialist at a local bank or credit union. You will need to deposit some money to open a savings account, but that amount can often be as low as $5.

Even if you don’t add to your initial deposit, as long as you haven’t taken it out, that amount will increase by the time you’re ready for college simply because of interest accrual. This is one time interest will work in your favor.

You can save more, though, if you deposit gift money you receive into your account. If you really want to give your account a boost, deposit all your gift money to earn interest on every penny. If that seems like too much, think about depositing half of any gift money you receive. That way you can still spend some, but you’ll also earn interest on a bit.

Save Your Change

If you use cash for all your spending money, saving your change can really add up over time.

Take a jar, glass bottle or even a cleaned-out laundry soap container and put any loose change you have every day into the container. Once your change gets heavy, or if you are tempted to spend it, deposit it into your savings account. You’ll probably be surprised at the amount of money you’ve accumulated in just “spare change.”

Have a Sale

Look around your room. Do you have some childhood toys collecting dust or video games you never play anymore? What about clothes you haven’t worn in more than a year hanging at the back of your closet?

If you have no need for the items and your parents are OK with it, think about having a garage sale or putting items on a website like eBay. Do some research before you sell anything to see what prices others are getting for items sold online. Then decide where to sell.

If you want to have a garage sale but don’t think you have enough to sell on your own, see if your friends would like to sell some of their stuff too. To keep track of where the money goes, use different colored price stickers to indicate whose item is being purchased. After the sale, proceeds can be easily divided up between the different color stickers.

Get a Job

The easiest way to save money is to earn money. If your grades and extracurricular activities allow, get a summer job or a part-time job during the school year. Look for places that are willing to work with your schedule and then be responsible for showing up on time. Working while going to school is a great way to learn how to balance different responsibilities.

Having a job also means earning a paycheck. This is another way to take advantage of a savings account. If you set aside some of the money you earn for your savings account on a regular basis, it will start earning interest as soon as you deposit it.

Think about setting a savings goal too. If you get paid every two weeks and are able to put away $40 each payday for two years, you can save more than $2,000 to put toward college expenses. If you don’t work during the school year, what about trying to save at least $250 a month during the summer? In two summers, your savings can increase $1,500.

However you accomplish it, any money you save now is money you won’t have to borrow (and pay back with interest) in the future.

By: Iowa Student Loan

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