September 29, 2016 8:00AM
Ask any high school senior or college student for their thoughts on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form and they’ll likely echo that of Pittsburg State University student Rae Zeller.
“It’s a pretty detailed form,” said Zeller. “And, because you have to wait until after your taxes are done, the timing isn’t exactly great. I normally have to wait until the middle of the spring semester.”
But this year, the FAFSA launch is moving up a full three months to Saturday, October 1, and Pittsburg State officials are encouraging students to take advantage of the extra time.
“Some aid awards are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis, so those who file earlier will be much more likely to get a better financial package,” said Tammy Higgins, director of PSU student financial assistance.
In addition to the new timeline, students can now base their answers on tax returns from 2015, the same return used for the current school year, so students should already have all of the necessary information.
“It’s called the ‘prior-prior year’ policy,” said Higgins. “It’s especially great for high school seniors who haven’t decided where they’re going because they’ll have more time to compare potential aid packages.”
Zeller said changes will certainly help reduce the stress of filing out the FAFSA.
“Moving it up will really help,” said Zeller. “It’ll be nice to have it done early.”
In order to help students with the new FAFSA filing launch, Pittsburg State’s financial aid team will be on campus Saturday from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., in 101 Horace Mann. Team members will be able to answer questions and help students who want to fill out the form in-person.
“You can certainly fill out the form online,” said Higgins. “But, sometimes students like to do it in person so that they can ask questions. It can be complicated, especially if you’ve never filled it out before. But don’t worry, we’re here to help.”
Higgins has a few tips for those who do plan on filling out the FAFSA by themselves.
“Be certain to use the data retrieval tool on the FAFSA form,” said Higgins. “This lets you pull data directly from the IRS form into your FAFSA form and makes it much easier to fill out. Also, be certain to have your W-2 forms and those of parents or spouse, as well as any asset information. You’ll need them with you to successfully complete the form. If you have any questions you can always contact us. We’re happy to walk you through the process.”
Pittsburg State’s financial aid office is located in 103 Horace Mann, 203 E. Cleveland Street. For questions about applying for financial aid, visit PSU’s financial aid website or call 620-235-4240.