What veterans need to know about financial aid

Kaylah Jackson
October 05, 2018 - 11:40 am

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It’s college application season and whether you’re entering with transfer credits, or starting college fresh, you should know how to apply for financial aid.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, more commonly known as the “FAFSA,” is your key to receiving federal and state financial aid. Aside from using your Post 9/11 G.I. Bill to cover tuition, filling out the FAFSA ensures you receive money to pay for things like books, rent, and even meals. While most people file their FASFA online, you can also fill out a PDF or use your phone.

Whichever method you choose, the process can be time-consuming. Here's a step-by-step guide.

  1. Create a Federal Student Aid ID (FSA ID).  This is the username and password that you’ll use to sign on to the FAFSA website. Click here, to go to the Federal Student Aid website to create your ID. It’s important to keep a record of the ID because it works as a legal signature for your documents. Do not give out this information to anyone.
  2. Start your FAFSA. Financial aid for the 2019-2020 school year is available now which means you should fill out the form as soon as possible. Go to fafsa.gov and click “start here.” Then, you’ll click the option that states“I am a student.”
  3. Log in with the FSA ID. That ’s the username and password that you already have set up. Make sure you fill out the 2019-20 FAFSA form. This ensures you’re filling out the information for the upcoming school year.
  4. Include background information. The beginning of the application will ask your name, date of birth, and social security number.
  5. List every school you’re considering. When you finish your FAFSA, it will be sent to every school you apply to. If you’re accepted, the school will use this information to put together what’s called a “financial aid” package. This package will list the different types of grants and scholarships the school has decided to award you for the year.  
  6.  Are you a dependent? FAFSA will ask questions about your parents to determine if you’re a dependent. However, Federal Student Aid considers veterans and active duty personnel, including Guard and Reservists as “independent,” automatically. The form will ask you “Are you a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces?” 
  7.  Include your financial information. This is personal information like your income and other assets. The FAFSA website might ask if you want to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT). If you have the option, click “Link to IRS.” This tool takes your tax information and transfers it to the FAFSA to limit your paperwork. It’s important to remember that if you’ve ever received Combat Pay, housing allowance or substance allowance, it is reported as untaxed income on the FAFSA.
  8. Sign and submit.  This is the last step and you'll use your FSA ID to electronically sign it.

You'll receive an email confirmation after you've submitted your FAFSA. Whichever university or college you chose to attend will now have your FASFA on file. From there, you'll receive your financial aid package from your school. It will state out how much state and federal money they've awarded you to use for the school year.  Don't understand a question on the application? Click here, to find a detailed explanation of each question on the application. 

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