College applicants, students and parents who are applying online for federal financial assistance for the 2012-2013 academic year will use a continuously revised FAFSA form, designed to simplify the student aid application process.
The 2012 online Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a bit less complicated to complete than in prior years. A new tax data importation feature has been included in the 2012 FAFSA application, so families will not have to retype information that they have already submitted to the IRS. Prior updates include a shorter worksheet, enhanced navigation, an improved help section, as well as a loan eligibility estimation tool.
Unlike prior years, the new application uses “skip logic” to omit questions, that do not apply to the applicant, based on answers to previous questions. In the past, the online FAFSA required applicants to manually skip over parts of the application that were not applicable.
The FAFSA remains a core component of student aid, and is commonly used by educational institutions to determine grant and loan amounts. Filing the FAFSA is also a prerequisite for a federal Stafford loan, for which all students are eligible.
Completing the FAFSA typically takes one to three hours assuming you have key information ready such as: year-end pay stubs, Social Security numbers, driver’s license information, investment records and bank statements. Those who have already filed the CSS/Financial Aid Profile, a separate financial aid application used by many private colleges, should have much of this information already available.
Some families decide not to file the FAFSA because they believe their income is too high to qualify. Experts contend, however, that many of those who think they won’t qualify are mistaken and suggest that it is a good idea to file the FAFSA because even if you don’t qualify this year, your future circumstances may change.
Families are advised not to delay completing the FAFSA until they have filed their tax returns. It is generally recommended that the FAFSA be completed with estimated information and then corrected later.