(Free Application for Federal Student Aid) 
     The FAFSA is a FREE application for federal student aid.  This is available to everyone, and everyone should fill it out regardless of whether or not you think you make too much money.  The FAFSA is produced by the U.S. Department of Education.  They collect family's personal and financial information used to calculate student's EFC (expected family contribution).  It is available in English and Spanish.  It is also available in three formats:  online, PDF(download at http://www.fafsa.gov), or paper.  If you file the FAFSA electronically, it takes about 72 hours.  If you file via paper, it can take up to six weeks.  You are also able to skip certain questions if you file electronically that you are not able to do on paper.  You will be able to check your status online and have immediate submission if processed online, and your application will be simplified in the future.
    How does the FAFSA work? 
    Step 1:  A student needs money for college.
    Step 2:  The student files the FAFSA.
    Step 3:  The government processes the FAFSA data and determines the amount of need.
    Step 4:  The student receives a copy of the SAR (student aid report), which defines the amount of money your family is expected to contribute to your college education (EFC).  The data is also sent to the financial aid offices specified by the student on the FAFSA. 
    Step 5:  Schools award financial aid through grants, scholarships, work-study and loans to cover costs above and beyond the EFC and generate an award letter.
    Step 6:  The student compares offers from different schools and decides which package best meets the family's needs.  Be sure to weigh all factors, not only those involving the bottom line.
    Step 7:  The student notifies all colleges regarding acceptance or denial of the offer. 
    This FAFSA has to be filed every year, for every student.  For seniors graduating in December, 2019 or May 2020, the FAFSA is available starting November 1, 2019.  In order to qualify for the TN Promise you must have it completed by Feburary 1, 2020. This year every student, as well as the parent, has to apply for a FSA ID.  In order to apply for this, each person must have a separate email account and you must know the password to access that email account.  The FSA ID consists of a username and password.  You will use your ID to log into fafsa.gov, the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) at nslds.ed.gov, studentloans.gov,  studentaid.gov, and agreement to serve (ATS) at teach-ats.ed.gov.  You can create a FSA ID at http://www.studentaid.ed.gov/pas/index.htm.  You will also need to know each individual's social security number that will require an ID.
    When you file your FAFSA in January you can use last year's tax information if you have not filed your taxes yet.  Once you do file this year's taxes, you can log back in to your account and update your information using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.  You MUST make this correction if you estimate. This feature will be available in February 2019.
    **A helpful tool that includes questions that may be applicable to all students can be found in the FAFSA on the Web Worksheet.**
    Here are some other helpful tips, or common mistakes made:
    *  If your parent doesn't have a social security number, use 9-0's (000-00-0000).
    *  Your number of exemptions is not usually "0".
    *  Make sure you don't list income earned for income tax PAID.  If you do this, it will result in a "$0.00" expected family contribution and that will result in $0.00 money for college for your student.
    *  You cannot count your parents in college for # of people in college.
    *  You can list up to 10 college choices on the FAFSA and colleges will not be able to view the other schools listed.
    *  CPS (Central Processing System) will notify students of their results by a paper student aid report (SAR) if a paper FAFSA was filed and/or a student's email address was not provided.  If filed electronically, you will get your results via email.
     *  Corrections to FAFSA data may be made by going to http://www.fafsa.gov and entering the FSA ID, updating and mailing the paper SAR, or submitting documentation to the college's financial aid office.
    What makes a Student Independent? 
    Unfortunately, just because a student moves out because they don't get along with their parents, or guardian, does not make them independent, even if the student pays for everything on their own! Below is a list of qualifying events that make a student independent.  However, it is still up to the federal government to have the final decision as to that status.
    *  Born before 1/1/1992 (for 2016-2017)
    *  Married
    *  Graduate or Professional Student
    *  Active duty military for purposes other than training
    *  Veteran
    *  Children and you provide 1/2 the support
    *  Dependents other than children or spouse
    *  Orphan, foster care, dependent/ward of the court
    *  Emancipated minor
    *  Legal guardianship (not temporary custody or power of attorney)
    *  Homeless or self supporting and at risk of being homeless (this is determined by college Financial Aid Administrator)
    A college's Financial Aid Administrator has the authority to change the filing status from dependent to independent after the student presents documentation of the situation.  The special circumstances would be: there is documented proof of abuse at home or abandonment by parents.  Situations that are NOT considered special circumstances are:  parents don't claim student on taxes, student does not live with parents and supports self, parents don't want to help pay for college, or parents refuse to provide information on the FAFSA.  If you complete your FAFSA without your parental information, and you do not qualify under the special circumstances, you will not qualify for any grants or scholarships and receive a "Reject" code.  You can opt for a loan option, which may or may not be enough to pay for your college education.  At this point, the student would still need to contact the college's Financial Aid Administrator regarding what documentation they need and if any additional decision will be made.
    Who Qualifies as a Parent for a Dependent Student? 
    Who is a Parent?  Biological parents, adoptive parents and stepparents, if they are married to the student's biological or adoptive parent and the student is included in their household size. 
    Who is NOT a Parent?  Foster parents, legal guardians who have not adopted the student, any relatives (including grandparents) who have not adopted the student, or stepparents who have not adopted the student and who would be the only person providing parental information.  If a ward of the state was adopted after the age of 13, they can file as an independent.
    TSAC and the Partnering Organizations will start sending messages the beginning of March 2016 to those students selected for verification.  Students will be asked to contact their school of choice to complete that institution's Verification process before July 15th.   These emails are sent through the college email NOT the personal email given, so make sure you check that email often.  At least 30% of students will get verified at random.  Every change made after the initial FAFSA  is submitted will put you back into the selection hopper.  Verification items are typically household size, number in college and SNAP benefits (formerly food stamps) if reported on the FAFSA.  You must show a "reasonable" estimate of household resources.  You can show support from others, but you will still contribute one way or another (food stamps, etc.).  If you do not put a reasonable amount, the college will put a recommended amount for you so keep this in mind when filling out the FAFSA.
    To complete the verification for victims of identity theft you must submit a signed copy of IRS income tax return AND one of the following:  IRS Form 14039 "Identity Theft Affidavit", a signed and dated statement indicating victim of identity theft and IRS is investigating, or a copy of the police report filed by the tax flier.