Get started on a degree program at American Public University.
By Ryan Laspina
Senior Specialist, Red Flags and External Reviews at APUS
Note: This is the first of three articles on completing the FAFSA.
If you are preparing to attend college and want to receive federal student aid (FSA) to pay some of your expenses, you must fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The information you provide on the FAFSA allows schools to calculate your FSA eligibility, so every answer needs to be accurate.
The FAFSA application can be intimidating, especially for first-time students. It asks for a lot of information and takes from one to several hours to complete.
Some FAFSA Questions Require Specific Information, Other Questions May Not Be Relevant
While the online version of FAFSA applies skip logic and will not ask questions that do not apply to you, the paper version of the 2018-2019 FAFSA requires following instructions and steps more carefully. Help text is provided in both versions.
Read every question carefully and follow all instructions. Some questions require very specific information and formatting, while others may or may not apply to you or your specific circumstances.
Step One of the FAFSA consists of 31 questions. Most of the information is self-explanatory, such as name, address, driver’s license’s number (if applicable) and contact information. These questions provide basic eligibility and personal identifying information.
For the citizenship questions, eligible noncitizens will have to provide their Alien Registration Number. U.S. citizens can skip any additional citizenship questions.
The Selective Service question pertains only to men between the ages of 18 and 25, who are all required to be registered for military service (with a few exceptions). However, if you have not previously signed up for the Selective Service, you can do so through the FAFSA by filling in the “Register me” circle. Selective Service registration is a basic eligibility requirement for FSA.
Drug Conviction May Not Necessarily Disqualify You from Aid
In the FAFSA, you will have to answer a “yes” or “no” question about illegal drug offenses. If you have been convicted of a drug offense, you need to acknowledge it on the application.
The FAFSA will then take a little longer to complete, because you will receive a worksheet to determine whether or not the conviction affects your FSA eligibility. You will also have to answer questions about your parents’ education and your high school completion status.
Other Questions Cover FSA Funding Eligibility
The last few questions in Step One will also help determine your FSA funding eligibility. Your college level and program of study factor into the types of grants and loans for which you may be eligible. Make sure to answer the questions as they relate to your planned enrollment during the 2018-2019 award year (July 1, 2018-June 20, 2019).
Step One should not take too much time to fill out, as it only requires you to answer basic eligibility questions. Remember to answer each question accurately.
In future articles, we will explore Steps Two and Three of the FAFSA process. Please keep in mind that Step Two will require tax documents and may take considerably more time to complete than Step One.