Five Dos and Don’ts of Applying for your FAFSA

Posted on January 16, 2024

A sign posted at student orientation gives financial aid info while students ask questions to a Financial Aid rep in the background.

It’s that time again: time for students to file their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). No matter your economic status, all students should take the time to file. And thanks to the FAFSA Simplification Act, the 2024 form is shorter than ever before.  

However simplified the new process may be, change can be intimidating, which is why UNC Greensboro’s Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships is here to ease students’ fears. Before you submit your 2024 FAFSA, consider the following tips for easier filing and better access to financial aid when tuition bills are due. 

1. DON’T procrastinate.

Student works on a laptop in a library.

“Although Financial Aid always recommends that students complete the FAFSA as soon as the submissions are open, it is particularly true this year since we are all getting used to a new system,” explains Roberta McDevitt, UNCG Financial Aid’s associate director of student services.  

FAFSA submissions typically open in October, but development of the new form delayed the 2024-25 FAFSA filings until December 31. Applications have been open since January and deadlines have been extended to August 15 to allow for applicants to adjust to the new system, but administrators encourage students to fill out the FAFSA application as soon as they can.

“UNCG must have your FAFSA data on file to be considered for institutional funds,” explains McDevitt.

The earlier you file, the earlier you receive the grants you qualify for. With tuition dollars on the line, it truly doesn’t pay to procrastinate when it comes to FAFSA filing. 

2. DO gather your tribe.

One of the new requirements for FAFSA is that everyone providing financial information on a student’s FAFSA must give consent to have their tax information used before the FAFSA can be submitted. These people are now referred to as contributors and include the student, the student’s parents, the spouse of the student’s parent, or the student’s spouse.  

A family gathers around a graduate after commencement. Everyone points to the proud grad.

Keep in mind that providing consent does not make anyone responsible for paying for your education. For example, a dependent student who provides a parent or stepparent’s information doesn’t require them to support you in any way, but it does help you to be considered for as many sources of student aid as possible.  

Alert all contributors to set up a federal student aid ID (FSA ID). Those who have filed a FAFSA before already have an FSA ID, but for those who are new to the process, the process is simple and includes setting up an account, password and signature needed for the FAFSA application. The FSA ID typically takes 72 hours to receive, so obtaining all IDs should be a student’s first step. The U.S. Department of Education has prepared a video that can be shared with parents and spouses to walk them through the process.  

Plan ahead so you’ll have all FSA IDs in hand before you file your FAFSA. 

3. DON’T sweat it. 

The FAFSA Simplification Act was initiated to provide better accessibility by making the application easier to fill out. Technology issues aside, this is true. The new application features 36 questions versus the old application, which included 108 questions!  

The current process aligns with federal income tax returns so that this data will be automatically transferred. This transfer is also the reason behind the multiple FSA IDs. Students need consent from all involved so that the data will transfer with ease. Take a deep breath and trust the process. 

“The best news is that the application really is shorter than before,” McDevitt assures. “There are a lot of questions that you don’t have to answer. This new system will skip applicants out of questions that they used to have to manually click through.”  

4. DO expect to benefit. 

As you exercise patience with the new application system, take comfort in the Department of Education’s stand that the new process was designed to give more students access to Pell grants. The government predicts that 600,000 additional students will be eligible for aid under the new FAFSA system. 

One of the new terms you’ll notice in your application is the Student Aid Index, or SAI. The SAI replaces the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Your SAI not only considers your family’s income and assets but also considers your zip code, which reflects your hometown’s federal poverty level. The SAI should give a more accurate view of how much aid each student needs. 

“They have reduced the types of untaxed income included, which is a good thing. There’s an option on the new form that allows parents without social security numbers to create an FSA ID,” McDevitt adds. “I can see where many of these changes should translate to UNCG students receiving aid who couldn’t before.” 

5. DON’T hesitate to ask questions. 

Finally, students can take heart that UNCG’s Financial Aid department is always down to help with questions along the way. The University is proud of the opportunities it provides to students who receive financial aid through Pell grants and other scholarships. This wouldn’t work for so many of our students if UNCG didn’t have dedicated staff members to guide families through the process and find funding when it’s needed.  

Trust Financial Aid when you run into a snag and encourage your parents to do the same. They work to serve you.  

Story by Becky Deakins, University Communications.
Photography by Sean Norona, University Communications.

Closeup of student signing a form on a UNCG branded table.

Take Advantage of Federal Aid.


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