Gentlemen, start your engines and all that. The 2016-2017 FAFSA is here. Several important things:
- The FAFSA is free. “Free” is what the first “F” in FAFSA stands for. If it asks for money, you’re on the wrong site. Make sure you fill it out on the fafsa.ed.gov site, linked above.
- The FSA ID replaced the former Federal Student Aid PIN last May. If you filled out a FAFSA last year, you’ll want to get your FSA ID before doing the renewal. It takes a couple of days for the SSA to review and confirm your data for the FSA ID, so get on that right away. You can create an FSA ID here, or on the FAFSA site. (You can fill out a new FAFSA without an FSA ID but you’ll need the FSA ID to view your SAR so you might as well just do it now.) Both the student and the parent need their own FSA ID.
- When the FAFSA refers to “you” it means the student. Only when it specifically references parents does it mean the parents. Sorry, narcissist parents.
- The FAFSA is not just for financial aid; it’s also for loans. You cannot take out a direct student loan or a PLUS loan without completing a FAFSA. The direct student loan should be your starting point for borrowing, so the FAFSA should be your starting point if you don’t have four years of college expenses sitting in a very safe 529 account.