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What is a FAFSA?

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What Is FAFSA & Why Is It Important?

They're just five letters, but they're enough to leave many students confused and wondering what in the heck to do with them: FAFSA. The FAFSA form, which stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is one of the most important forms for aspiring students who are in need of financial aid for study post-high school.

You must fill out a FAFSA at fafsa.gov in order to qualify for federal funding, which includes  federal Pell Grants. Pell Grants are considered a form of gift aid and does not have to be repaid, if the student meets the criteria. Federal funding also includes Direct Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loans.

In addition to federal financial aid, many schools require the FAFSA to be filled out in order for a student to qualify for other types of   financial aid  such as State or Institutional funding. l. Some scholarships also require that a FAFSA is filled out before a student is determined to be eligible.

“The benefits of filling out a FAFSA are there,” says Lyuda Berkoff, Senior Director of Financial Aid at Universal Technical Institute (UTI). “You may be eligible for grants from the U.S. Department of Education that do not need to be paid back. In addition, you may qualify for federal student loans, which usually carry a lower fixed interest rate than you’d find elsewhere. You may also qualify for federal work-study , if your school offers that option.”

Beginning October 1 each year, any student who plans to enroll in postsecondary education can complete and submit the FAFSA. Many state or institutional financial aid programs have early filing deadlines , so you'll want to fill out and submit your form as soon as you can. Here's what you need to know. 

What Do You Need to Fill Out the FAFSA?

To fill out the FAFSA form, you'll need the following information. If you are a dependent (which you can determine here), you will also need this information from your parent(s).

  • Social security number
  • Alien registration number, if you're not a U.S. citizen
  • Federal income tax returns, W-2s and records of money earned from two years prior
  • Bank statements and investment records
  • Records of untaxed income

This information will help the federal government to determine how much financial aid you are eligible for.

Once you, and your parents if you're a dependent, have gathered the above information, set aside around an hour to fill out the form together, recommends Alexandra DeJesus, Senior Director of Financial Aid at UTI.

No matter what a family’s income level is, filling out the FAFSA can help your school determine if there are other types of scholarships and grants you may qualify for,” Alexandra says. “Various types of programs may require a FAFSA to be completed in order to receive certain types of federal aid. The Department of Education has made the FAFSA process easier than ever. Check out the mobile app!”

When you're filling out the FAFSA, be sure to read all instructions carefully and turn in the most accurate information possible.

“Be as accurate as you can be, and take your time,” says Ted Groff, UTI Financial Aid Director. “If you have to change the FAFSA due to a mistake, you are more likely to be selected for verification.”

If you are selected for verification by the federal government or a school you've applied to, you'll likely need to present records that confirm the information you submitted on the FAFSA is true and accurate. Verification selection can occur randomly, so make sure you retain all records you used to complete the FAFSA.

What Happens After You Fill Out the FAFSA?

Once you have completed the FAFSA, you can check the status of your application online, whether you filled it out online or on paper. You'll log in to fafsa.gov with your federal student aid ID to check your status.

Within three weeks after you submit your form, you should receive a Student Aid Report from the Department of Education that summarizes the data you submitted. You and your family should look over this report to make sure there weren't any mistakes with what you submitted. If there are were, you can make corrections to your FAFSA online.

Once you've determined everything on the Student Aid Report is correct, it's simply a waiting game to see what types of financial aid you have qualified for. . The federal government reports you could receive an award letter from a school you've applied to as early as winter for a fall enrolment the following year, or you might not get one until right before you start school.

Alexandra recommends to contact UTI and ask questions about your FAFSA and financial aid you may be eligible for. You can contact the UTI financial aid department any time of year by calling (800) 859-7249 or by emailing questions.

Need Help Filling Out Your FAFSA?

If you need assistance while completing your FAFSA, we're here to help. You can schedule an appointment with one of our FA Support Specialists online by clicking the link below. Or call toll-free at (844) 338-0032.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

  • What information do I need to fill out my FAFSA application?

    • FSA ID to sign the FAFSA electronically
    • Social Security Number or your Alien Registration Number (if you are not a U.S. citizen)
    • Your (and your spouse’s, if married) federal income tax returns (2016 return for the 2018-2019 FAFSA, and 2017 return for the 2019-2020 FAFSA), W-2s, and any other records of money earned (if applicable)
    • You may be able to transfer your federal tax return information directly into the FAFSA by using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. You will need the exact address as it appears on your tax return down to punctuation and abbreviation
    • Your parents information and income tax return if you are considered an dependent student as determined by the FAFSA
    • Bank statements and records of investments (if applicable)

  • What is the FAFSA save key?

    The Save Key is a code you create between 4 and 8 characters long. It is created for temporary use and allows you or your parent to return and complete an unsubmitted FAFSA.

  • Do my parents need an FSA ID?

    • If you are considered a “Dependent” student as determined by the FAFSA application, your parent will need to create an FSA ID in order to electronically sign the FAFSA.
    • They can create an FSA ID by going to fsaid.ed.gov

  • What is the FSA ID and how do I create for one?

    • The FSA ID is the username and password you will create to electronically sign your FAFSA application and access certain U.S. Department of Education websites
    • You can create an FSA ID by going to fsaid.ed.gov

  • What are the UTI, MMI & NASCAR Tech school codes needed to complete a FAFSA?

    • UTI Avondale: 008221
    • UTI Bloomfield: 016696
    • UTI Dallas/Fort Worth: 016696
    • UTI Exton: 016696
    • UTI Houston: 016696
    • UTI Lisle: 008221
    • UTI Long Beach: 008221
    • UTI Norwood: 008221
    • UTI Orlando: 014518
    • UTI Rancho Cucamonga: 008221
    • UTI Sacramento: 014518
    • NASCAR Technical Institute: 008221
    • MMI (Moto) Orlando: 014518
    • MMI (Marine) Orlando: 014518
    • MMI Phoenix: 014518

  • What is a FAFSA application and why do I need to fill it out?

    • FAFSA is an acronym which stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid
    • The FAFSA will determine your eligibility for federal grants, educational loans and possible work-study programs.
    • If you’re hoping to receive any type of government financial aid for college, you would file a FAFSA
    • You can apply for FAFSA by going to www.fafsa.ed.gov