For students heading or returning to college in fall 2017, the start date for applying for federal and state financial aid has moved up to October 1, 2016. This change is in comparison to previous years where students were unable to file for financial aid until the first of the year.
Completing and submitting the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is the first step to take in finding money to help pay for college. The sooner the FAFSA is complete, the sooner the student and family will get information about the possibility of qualifying for financial aid. To be considered for a share of the billions of dollars available in federal and state aid to students with financial need, you must apply. The FAFSA is one of the documents that many schools consider when awarding scholarships.
For in-person help filing the FAFSA, students and families are invited to attend a FAFSA Day on Saturday, October 29, 9: 00 a.m. – 12 noon at most sites. Pre-registration is strongly encouraged for FAFSA Day. Go to CFNC.org/FAFSAday or call 866-866-CFNC toll-free for a list of event sites and register for the one nearest you. More than 50 sites across North Carolina will be available the morning of October 29. Carefully check the date and time, since these may differ.
FAFSA Day will be staffed by college financial aid administrators and financial aid specialists. Many campuses also will be available to assist students and parents during campus hours and upon request in the days surrounding FAFSA Day.
Tips for being prepared for FAFSA Day or completing the FAFSA on your own include:
Get a Federal Student Aid Identification (FSAID) in advance. Both student and a parent’s FSA IDs will be required to access the FAFSA, therefore, getting them in advance from the U.S. Department of Education website, FSAID.ed.gov will speed up the process. If not done in advance, it can be done just prior to FAFSA completion.
Have your 2015 tax information. If the student and parents’ 2015 taxes have been filed, most participants can use the Data Retrieval Tool on the FAFSA. However, if 2015 completed tax forms are not available, having 1040 tax forms or W-2 forms and other income and asset documents in hand will be helpful.
Before FAFSA Day, it is also helpful to complete a FAFSA on the web worksheet with as much information entered as possible. The online worksheet will be available by October 1, 2016 at www.FAFSA.gov.
An October FAFSA Phone-In, also sponsored by CFNC, is another option for students and parents who have only a few questions on completing the FAFSA. Every Tuesday night in October between 5 and 8 p.m., financial aid specialists will be available to help at the toll-free number, 866-866-CFNC (2362).
Families also can get help with the FAFSA on Tuesday, November 29, 2016 at Mount Zion Baptist Church in Greensboro. During the week of December 5, 2016, State Employees’ Credit Union branches will be ready by appointment to help students and families with FAFSA completion.
“Early completion of the FAFSA helps students take advantage of all of the financial aid opportunities available for North Carolinians,” said Marcia Weston with the N.C. State Education Assistance Authority and CFNC coordinator of the FAFSA Day program. “Students and parents don’t need to worry if they aren’t sure how to answer all of the questions on the form. That’s why we have arranged to have experienced college aid professionals and financial specialists to help at each site. “
Weston continued, “Having an October FAFSA filing date aligns the financial aid and college application process, which helps students to streamline their college preparation activities. The early FAFSA filing date that now uses 2015 prior year tax information also means students and parents don’t have to wait until their 2016 taxes are completed.”
FAFSA Day is sponsored by a collaboration of College Foundation of North Carolina, the North Carolina Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators and State Employees’ Credit Union.
More information is available on college and career planning on the College Foundation of North Carolina website, CFNC.org. Families will find college cost estimators, lists of scholarship, grant and loan opportunities, information about North Carolina’s 529 college savings plan, career descriptions and requirements, virtual tours of more than 100 of the state’s college campuses, and online college admission and financial aid applications.
College Foundation of North Carolina (CFNC) is a free service of the State of North Carolina provided by a collaboration of Pathways (the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, the N.C. Community College System, the N.C. Independent Colleges and Universities, and The University of North Carolina System), the North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority, and College Foundation, Inc. CFNC promotes access to North Carolina higher education and assists students with education planning, career planning, and applying and paying for college.
CFNC offers resources toll-free at 1-866-866-CFNC and at CFNC.org
State Employees’ Credit Union (SECU) is a not-for-profit financial cooperative owned by its members. SECU has been providing employees of the State of North Carolina and their families with consumer financial services for 77 years. With more than 1.9 million members, SECU provides services through more than 250 branch offices, 1,100 ATMs, 24/7 Contact Centers and a website, www.ncsecu.org.