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FAFSA Tips

FAFSA Tip Sheets

Tips For Completing The FAFSA

The earlier, the better.  You do not have to wait on a completed tax return to be able to submit the FAFSA.  You may check the appropriate box indicating that you are estimating your income, and then provide the best estimate based on check stubs, W-2 forms, or other income documentation.

Apply online.  Although you can submit a paper application, you will get your Student Aid Report (SAR) sooner if you apply online.  FAFSA on the web checks your answers before you submit your application, so there is less chance that your application will have missing or conflicting information.  Additionally, CIU will receive a copyFinials of your FAFSA sooner if you file online. To get a paper application you will need to call 1-800-4FED-AID (1-800-433-3243).

Apply for a PINYou can e-sign the electronic FAFSA if you apply for a PIN at www.pin.ed.gov.  Dependent students need at least one parent to apply for a PIN.  The PIN can also be used to make corrections to your FAFSA.  You can choose to select your own PIN, view the PIN online instantly, have the PIN emailed to you, or have the PIN mailed to your mailbox (this will take 7-10 days).

Video Tutorial for assistance with completing a FAFSA. For assisatnce in completing your FAFSA please visit the following website to watch a video that will walk you through each step in completing the FAFSA.  Click to view the video.

Collect your paperwork.  Have all of the necessary documents on hand when completing the FAFSA: your social security number, your driver’s license, the previous year W-2 forms, your federal income tax return (and your spouse’s if you are married), your parents’ federal income tax return (if you are a dependent), your untaxed income records (Social Security, aid to dependent children, child support, welfare, pensions, and veterans benefits), bank and mortgage statements, business and investment records (including stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and certificates of deposit), and alien registration card (if not a U.S. citizen).

Navigating the FAFSA.  When you navigate through the form, use the “Next” and “Previous” buttons at the bottom of each page.  Don’t use your web browser’s navigation buttons (Back, Forward, Reload, Stop).  Use the “Save” button at the bottom of each screen instead of using the browser’s File menu when saving your application. 

Read the questions carefully. The words ‘you’ and ‘your’ always refer to the student, whereas questions for parents will use the words ‘your parents’.

Double-check your information.  Be certain to file using your correct legal name and social security number, as they appear on your social security card.  Do not use a nickname.  Carefully check your social security number.

Provide the correct Federal School Code number.  CIU’s federal code is 003429. 

Round to the nearest dollar, and do not use commas or decimal points.

Provide a reliable e-mail addressYou will receive important messages from the federal Department of Education.  Check this address regularly.

Save your FAFSASave your application frequently using the Save button at the bottom of the screen.  That way, if you lose your Internet connection, you’ll have a copy of the FAFSA data you’ve already entered. 

Get help.  To get an index of help topics, click on the “Help” button.  To print the text for a help topic or the FAQ on the FAFSA website, open the help window and (for Windows users) press the Ctrl and P keys at the same time or (for Mac users) press the Command and P keys at the same time.

Completing IRS Data Retrieval
Instructions to complete IRS Data Retrieval. Or if you completed your FAFSA without using data retrieval you can go back in and update your FAFSA. To update the FAFSA with IRS Data Retrieval information, the parent and the student should go to www.fafsa.ed.gov, log in to the student’s FAFSA record, select “Make FAFSA Corrections,” and navigate to the Financial Information section of the form. From there, follow the instructions to determine if the parent(s) is eligible to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to transfer 2011 IRS income tax information into the student’s FAFSA.

It takes up to two weeks for IRS income information to be available for the IRS Data Retrieval Tool for electronic IRS tax return filers, and up to eight weeks for paper IRS tax return filers.

 For assistance in using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, please watch this video tutorial created by the financial aid office at University of California Santa Barbara. Or please contact our office to speak with a financial aid counselor.

You or your parents will not be able to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool if any of the following apply:

  • You (or your parent) filed as married filing separately
  • You (or your parent) filed as Head of Household
  • You (or your parent) filed an amended tax return
  • You (or your parent) filed a Puerto Rican or Foreign Tax Return
  • Note: Tax information filed electronically within the last two (2) weeks or submitted by mail within the last eight (8) weeks may not be available through the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.

Clear your form.  Use the button labeled “Exit” with caution.  Selecting this button and answering ‘OK’ to the prompt that appears will erase every answer on your FAFSA.

Review the SAR (Student Aid Report)Once you complete the FAFSA, the Department of Education will mail or email you with the results along with any messages and possible errors that need to be corrected in a report called the Student Aid Report.