Editor's note: This post is part two of two about the financial aid process. You can read Part I by clicking here.
We aren’t going to pretend that digging out and entering family income, asset, and demographic information into the FAFSA student financial aid form is as much fun as lobbing egg-deprived missiles at evil green porcine kidnappers. But it beats the feathers out of lots of other things, so let’s pull out the laptop and get started.
1. First do your taxes
You’re going to need to refer to your 2010 Federal income tax form while filling out the FAFSA (click here to see Part I of the FAFSA story). If you haven’t done your taxes yet, now you have some extra motivation not to put it off until April 14.
2. Get your PIN
You can get your Federal Student Aid personal identification number at any time at pin.ed.gov. “Both students and parents will need to get a PIN,” says PCA&D’s Director of Financial Aid David Hershey. “You’re going to have the same PIN your whole time at college, so print it out or write it down and keep it where you can find it.” Of course, you should never share the PIN with others—such as services that offer to help you complete the FAFSA—since it provides access to your personal financial records.
“The PIN, along with a password you create, makes it easy to fill out part of the form, log off, then go back in later and pick up where you left off,” says Hershey. ”Also, it functions as your signature on your completed FAFSA as well as sign your Federal loan application online.”
3. Get started
Go to fafsa.ed.gov which is the official site, hosted by the Federal Student Aid office of the U.S. Department of Education. Between this site’s instructions and your college financial aid office, there’s plenty of free help available.
4. Keep it simple
While you can search out online resources about FAFSA, we encountered plenty of the following :
• Money-making operations disguised as official-looking FAFSA sites, such as fafsa.com.
• Out-of-date information
• Just plain misinformation
“It’s not scary, it’s really not that bad an application,” Hershey says. “And you don’t have to be a tax expert. For example, if they’re looking for your adjusted gross income, it tells you exactly which line to go to on the 1040.”
So instead of launching one more volley at evil green pigs, why not take aim at FAFSA? It’ll be more satisfying than a direct hit at level 21.
Check out Part I of the FAFSA story by clicking here.
And visit pcad.edu/finaid for more information and resources.