11 Common FAFSA Mistakes

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12 Common FAFSA Mistakes

11 Common FAFSA Mistakes

The 2016–17 FAFSA® is now available! The online FAFSA has gotten a lot easier over the last few years. Thanks to improvements like skip logic, where you only see questions that are applicable to you; and the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, which allows you to import your tax information from the IRS directly into the FAFSA application, the FAFSA takes less than 30 minutes to complete. Just make sure to take your time so you don’t make one of these mistakes:

1. Not Completing the FAFSA®

I hear all kinds of reasons: “The FAFSA is too hard,” “It takes too long to complete,” I never qualify anyway, so why does it matter?” It does matter. By not completing the FAFSA, you are missing the opportunity to qualify for what could be thousands of dollars to help you pay for college. The FAFSA takes little time to complete, and there is help provided throughout the application. Oh, and contrary to popular belief, there is no income cut-off when it comes to federal student aid.

2. Not Using the Correct Website

The official FAFSA website is fafsa.gov. That’s .gov! You never have to pay to complete the FAFSA. If you’re asked for credit card information, you’re not on the official government site.

3. Not Getting an FSA ID Ahead of Time

We’ve made a big change to the FAFSA process this year in order to increase security. Students and parents can no longer use a Federal Student Aid PIN to log in and sign the FAFSA online. You must, instead, use the new FSA IDa username and password. Once you register for an FSA ID, you may need to wait up to three days before you can use it to sign your FAFSA. If you don’t want your FAFSA to be delayed, register for an FSA ID now. If you’re a dependent student, your parent will need to create an FSA ID too.

The key to making the FAFSA simple is being prepared. The process will go much smoother if you register for an FSA ID and gather everything you need to complete the FAFSA before you start the application.

4. Waiting to Fill Out The FAFSA Until After You File Taxes

Because some financial aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, it’s important to fill out the FAFSA early. However, the 2016–17 FAFSA is available beginning January 1, 2016, well before most people have their 2015 taxes filed. This, however, shouldn’t stop you from getting the FAFSA submitted. If your income from 2014 is similar to your income from 2015, you can use your 2014 taxes to estimate the financial information on the FAFSA and get it submitted now. You can then update the FAFSA after you file 2015 taxes, preferably using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.

5. Not Filing by the Deadline

States, schools, and the federal government each have their own FAFSA deadlines. To maximize the amount of your financial aid, you should fill out your FAFSA (and any other financial aid applications that may be required by your state or school), by the earliest of these three deadlines, if not sooner!

6. Not Reading Definitions Carefully

When it comes to completing the FAFSA, you want to read each definition and question carefully. Too many students see delays in their financial aid for simple mistakes that could have been easily avoided.

Don’t rush through these questions:

  • Your Number of Family Members (Household size): The FAFSA has a specific definition of how your or your parents’ household size should be determined. Read the instructions carefully. Many students incorrectly report this number.
  • Legal Guardianship: One question on the FAFSA asks: “As determined by a court in your state of legal residence, are you or were you in legal guardianship?” Many students incorrectly answer “yes” here. For this question, the definition of legal guardianship does not include your parents, even if they were appointed by a court to be your guardian. You are also not considered a legal guardian of yourself.

7. Inputting Incorrect Information

Here are some examples of common errors we see on the FAFSA:

  • Confusing Parent and Student Information: I know there are many parents out there who fill out the FAFSA for their child, but remember, the FAFSA is the student’s application. When the FAFSA says “you” or “your”, it’s referring to the student, so make sure to enter the student’s information. If we are asking for parent information, we will specify that in the question.
  • Entering the Wrong Name (Yes, I’m serious): You wouldn’t believe how many people have issues with their FAFSA because they entered an incorrect name on the application. It doesn’t matter if you’re Madonna, or Drake, or whatever Snoop Lion is calling himself these days. You must enter your full name as it appears on official government documents. No nicknames.
  • Entering the Wrong Social Security Number (SSN): When we process FAFSAs, we cross check your social security number with the Social Security Administration. To avoid delays in processing your application, triple check that you have entered the correct SSN. If you meet our basic eligibility criteria, but you or your parents don’t have a SSN, follow these instructions.
  • Amount of Your Income Tax: Income tax is not the same as income. It is the amount of tax that you (and if married, your spouse) paid on your income earned from work. Your income tax amount should not be the same as your adjusted gross income (AGI). Where you find the amount of your income tax depends on which IRS form you filed.

Tip: If you use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, this number will be pulled for you, directly from your income tax return.

8. Not Reporting Parent Information

Even if you fully support yourself, pay your own bills, and file your own taxes, you may still be considered a dependent student for federal student aid purposes, and therefore, you’ll need to provide parent information on your FAFSA. Dependency guidelines for the FAFSA are determined by Congress and are different from those of the IRS. Find out whether or not you need to provide parent information by answering these questions.

Bonus: Who is my parent when I fill out the FAFSA?

Who's My Parent When I Fill Out My FAFSA? Graphic

Click to enlarge

9. Listing only one college

Two-thirds of freshmen FAFSA applicants list only one college on their applications. Do not make this mistake! Colleges can’t see the other schools you’ve added, so you should add ANY college you are considering to your FAFSA, even if you aren’t sure whether you’ll apply or be accepted. It doesn’t hurt your application to add more schools. If you’re applying to more than 10 schools, follow these steps.

10. Not Using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool

For many, the most difficult part about filling out the FAFSA is entering in the financial information. But now, thanks to a partnership with the IRS, students and parents who are eligible can automatically transfer the necessary tax info into the FAFSA using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. This year, the tool will launch on February 7, 2016. In most cases, your information will be available from the IRS two weeks after you file. It’s also one of the best ways to prevent errors on your FAFSA and avoid any processing delays.

Tip: If you used income estimates to file your FAFSA early, you can use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to update your FAFSA shortly after after you file your 2015 taxes.

11. Not Signing the FAFSA

So many students answer every single question that is asked, but fail to actually sign the FAFSA with their FSA ID and submit it. This happens for many reasons, maybe they forgot their FSA ID, or their parent isn’t with them to sign with the parent FSA ID, so the FAFSA is left incomplete. Don’t let this happen to you. If you don’t have or don’t know your FSA ID, register for one. If you would like confirmation that your FAFSA has been submitted, you can check your status immediately after you submit your FAFSA online.

Nicole Callahan is a Digital Engagement Strategist at Federal Student Aid.

7 Steps to Filling Out the FAFSA

7 Steps to Filling Out the FAFSA

Need to fill out the FAFSA® but don’t know where to start? I’m here to help. You’ve already done the hard part and gathered all of the necessary information, so now it’s time to complete the FAFSA. Let me walk you through it step by step:

IMPORTANT: On May 10, 2015, we changed the way you log in to fafsa.gov. You now must use an FSA ID to log in and sign the FAFSA online. You can no longer use a PIN. If you are required to provide parent information on the FAFSA, your parent must register for an FSA ID too. Create your FSA ID at  StudentAid.gov/fsaid

1. Go to fafsa.gov

One thing you don’t need in order to fill out the FAFSA? Money! Remember, the FAFSA is FREE when you use the official .gov site: fafsa.gov.

2. Log in using your FSA ID

If you completed a FAFSA last year: Click “Login” and enter your FSA ID. If you haven’t transitioned your PIN to an FSA ID, you can do so here. If possible, make sure you link your PIN during the FSA ID registration process. Otherwise, you will need to wait 1-3 days before you can use your FSA ID to sign and submit your renewal FAFSA.

If this is your first time completing the FAFSA: Click “Start a new FAFSA” and enter your FSA ID. If you haven’t created an FSA ID yet, you can do that here. You will be able to use your FSA ID to sign and submit your new FAFSA right away.

If you are a parent: Click “login” and “Enter the student’s information”.

FAFSA Login Screen

3. Choose which FAFSA you’d like to complete

The new FAFSA that becomes available on January 1, 2016, is the 2016–17 FAFSA. You should complete the 2016–17 FAFSA if you will be attending college between July 1, 2016 and June 30, 2017. Remember, the FAFSA is not a one-time thing. You must complete your FAFSA each school year.

Note: The 2015–16 FAFSA is also available if you will be attending college between July 1, 2015 and June 30, 2016, and you haven’t applied for financial aid yet.

4. Enter your personal information*

This is information like your name, date of birth, etc. If you have completed the FAFSA in the past, a lot of your personal information will be pre-populated to save you time. Make sure you enter your personal information exactly as it appears on official government documents. (That’s right, no nicknames.)

5. Enter your financial information*

All of it. You should use income records for the tax year prior to the academic yearfor which you are applying. For example, if you are filling out the 2016–17 FAFSA, you will need to use 2015 tax information. If you or your parent(s) haven’t filed your 2015 taxes yet, which at this point, most people haven’t, you can always estimate the amounts using your 2014 tax return; just make sure to update your FAFSA once you file your 2015 taxes. Once you file your taxes, you may be able to automatically import your tax information into the FAFSA using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. It makes completing the FAFSA super easy!

6. Choose up to 10 schools

Two-thirds of freshmen FAFSA applicants list only one college on their applications. Don’t make this mistake! Make sure you add any school you plan to attend, even if you haven’t applied or been accepted yet. You can add up to 10 schools to your FAFSA at a time. We will send the necessary information over to the schools you listed so they can calculate the amount of financial aid you are eligible to receive.  If you’re applying to more than 10 schools, this is what you do.

7. Sign the document with your FSA ID*

Your FSA ID serves as your electronic signature, or e-signature. You’ll use it to electronically sign and submit your FAFSA. If you don’t have an FSA ID, you’ll need to get one. If you’re considered a dependent student, at least one of your parents or your legal guardian will need an FSA ID as well. You will use your FSA ID to renew/correct your FAFSA each school year, so keep it in a safe place. If you have forgotten your FSA ID, you can retrieve it. If you have siblings, your parent can use the same FSA ID to sign FAFSAs for all his or her children.

*If you are considered a dependent student, your parent(s) will also need to do this.

I’m finished. What’s next?

That’s it. You’ve filled it out. I told you it wasn’t so bad. With the hard part over, check out this page to learn what you should do next.

Nicole Callahan is a Digital Engagement Strategist at Federal Student Aid.

7 Things You Need Before You Fill Out the FAFSA

If you need financial aid to help you pay for college, you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). The 2016–17 FAFSA is available on January 1, 2016, at 12 a.m. Central Time. You should fill it out (for FREE) on the official government site, fafsa.gov.


To speed up the FAFSA process, get prepared early. Here is what you’ll need to fill out the FAFSA:

1. Your FSA ID*

On May 15, 2015, we changed the way you log into the FAFSA. You now need an FSA ID, instead of a PIN, to log in and sign your FAFSA online.

Anyone who plans to fill out the 2016–17 FAFSA should create an FSA ID as soon as possible. In some situations, you may need to wait up to 3 days to use your FSA ID after registering. If you want to avoid FAFSA delays, register for an FSA ID now.

If you are required to provide parent information on your FAFSA, your parent will need to register for an FSA ID too. Because your FSA ID is equivalent to your signature, parents and students each need to create their own FSA IDs using separate e-mail addresses. Parents should not create an FSA ID for their child and vice versa.

2. Your Social Security number*

You can find the number on your social security card. If you don’t have access to it, and don’t know where it is, ask your parent or legal guardian or get a new or replacement social security card from the Social Security Administration. If you are not a U.S. citizen, but meet Federal Student Aid’s basic eligibility requirements, you’ll need your Alien Registration Number.

3. Your driver’s license number

If you don’t have a driver’s license, then don’t worry about this step.

4. Your tax records*

Use income records for the tax year prior to the academic year for which you are applying: so if you are filling out the 2016–17 FAFSA, you will need 2015 tax information. If you haven’t filed your taxes yet, don’t worry! You can still fill out the FAFSA now. Just estimate the amounts using your 2014 tax return and make sure to update your FAFSA once you file your 2015 taxes. After you file, you may be able to import your tax information electronically into the FAFSA using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.

5. Records of your untaxed income*

This includes variables that may or may not apply to you, like child support received, interest income and veterans non-education benefits. Parents can find specific details here. Students can find details here.

6. Records of all your assets (money)*

This includes savings and checking account balances, as well as investments like stocks and bonds and real estate.

7. List of the school(s) you are interested in attending

Two-thirds of freshmen FAFSA applicants list only one college on their applications. Don’t make this mistake! Be sure to list any school you’re considering, even if you haven’t applied or been accepted yet. The schools you list on your FAFSA will automatically receive your FAFSA results electronically. They will use your FAFSA information to determine the types and amounts of financial aid you may receive. If you add a school to your FAFSA and decide not to apply, that’s OK. The school likely won’t award you aid until you’ve been accepted anyway. You can list up to 10 schools on your FAFSA. If you’re applying to more than 10 schools, you can add more later.

TIP:  To be considered for state aid, several states require you to list schools in a particular order (for instance, you might need to list a state school first). Find out whether your state has a requirement for the order in which you list schools on your FAFSA.

*If you’re a dependent student, you will need this information for your parent(s) as well.

Nicole Callahan is a Digital Engagement Strategist at Federal Student Aid.

The Parent’s Guide to Completing the FAFSA From Start to Finish


The Parent’s Guide to Completing the FAFSA From Start to Finish

Although a student’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) is the student’s responsibility, parents take a large role in the process when a student is determined to be dependent. If you’re getting ready to help your child apply for federal student aid on the 2016–17 FAFSA, here’s what you should be doing over the next few months:

Before the FAFSA

  • Learn the basics of the federal student aid programs (grants, work-study, and loans) at StudentAid.gov/types. Federal aid is intended to help cover the student’s cost of attendance (tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, and other education expenses.)
  • To familiarize yourself further with your child’s federal student aid options, read Do You Need Money for College? at StudentAid.gov/needmoney.
  • Encourage your child to maximize any available free money to help pay for college. There’s information and a free scholarship search at StudentAid.gov/scholarships.
  • Understand whether your child needs to provide parent information on the FAFSA. StudentAid.gov/dependency will help you determine if your child is dependent or independent.
  • Understand who counts as a parent for purposes of filling out the FAFSA. StudentAid.gov/fafsa-parent shares the definition of “legal parent” and discusses which parent’s information should be reported on the FAFSA when the legal parents are divorced or separated and not living together.
  • You and your child should get FSA IDs. An FSA ID is a username and password that you’ll be using to sign the FAFSA. You and your child each need your own FSA ID—and you each need to create your own for privacy purposes and because the information is easier to remember if you create your own. (Note: Only one of a student’s parents needs to sign the student’s FAFSA, so only one parent needs an FSA ID.)
  • You and your child will each need to gather these documents in preparation for the FAFSA:
    • Your Social Security number
    • Your Alien Registration number (if you are not a U.S. citizen)
    • Your 2015 federal income tax returns, W-2s, and/or other records of money earned*
    • Bank statements and records of investments (if applicable)
    • Records of untaxed income (if applicable)
    • An FSA ID to sign electronically

*Note: You may be able to transfer your federal tax return information into your FAFSA using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (IRS DRT) once your tax form has been processed.

Filling Out the FAFSA

  • Completing the FAFSA is a question-by-question guide to the FAFSA. It offers help, hints, and definitions in case you get stuck on any of the questions.
  • Encourage your child to fill out the FAFSA before state and school deadlines, which may fall as early as February 2016. Students will be able to file a 2016–17 FAFSA beginning on Jan. 1, 2016.
  • Make sure your child goes to fafsa.gov to fill out the application.
  • The FAFSA is your child’s application, so keep in mind when it says “you,” it means “you, the student.”
  • If you haven’t done your 2015 taxes before your child fills out the FAFSA, don’t worry. You can estimate the amounts, perhaps using your 2014 taxes to guide you.
  • If you’ve already done your taxes before your child fills out the FAFSA, use the IRS DRT to automatically insert tax information into the FAFSA.
  • If your family’s income has had a sudden drop (for instance, if a parent lost a job) that isn’t reflected in your 2015 tax information, gather documentation so that your child can present the situation to the financial aid administrator at the school.
  • If you want to understand where your Expected Family Contribution comes from, take a look at the EFC Formula workbook at StudentAid.gov/resources#efc.
  • At the beginning of the application, your child will be asked to create a Save Key, which is a temporary password that lets you return to a partially completed FAFSA. If you and your child are accessing his or her FAFSA from different locations, your child should do his or her part and then share the Save Key with you. You’ll need to enter it to get access to your child’s FAFSA.
  • Be sure you or your child sees the confirmation page pop up on the screen so you’ll know the FAFSA has been submitted.
  • Read the FAFSA confirmation page carefully. There are a few differences between the e-mailed confirmation (which arrives later) and the one you see at the end of the application, so consider printing or saving the confirmation page before you exit.
  • Depending on your state, you may see a link on the FAFSA confirmation page to your state’s financial aid application. This will allow your child to transfer his or her information directly into the state aid application.
  • If you have more than one child attending college, select the option on the confirmation page to transfer your parent information into the other child’s FAFSA.
  • If you need help filling out the FAFSA, read the “Help and Hints” located on the right side of any page within the fafsa.gov application; click “Need Help?” at the bottom of any page; or chat (in English or Spanish) with live technical support staff by clicking the “Help” icon at the top of any page, then selecting “Contact Us,” “Federal Student Aid Information Center,” and then “Chat with Us.”

Help Options on the FAFSA

After the FAFSA

  • Both you and your child will receive e-mails letting you know the FAFSA has been processed, assuming you both provided e-mail addresses on the FAFSA. It takes about three days for the FAFSA to be processed and sent to the school.
  • Double-check the information you reported on the FAFSA. You can make corrections if necessary.
  • During the winter or spring, your child will receive aid offers from schools. You can visit StudentAid.gov/fafsa/next-steps/accept-aid for more information on how to help your child understand and compare the types of aid as he or she decides what aid to accept and what to turn down.
  • Encourage your child to read all communications from the school carefully and to supply any additional information, forms, or signatures needed by the deadlines the school sets.

Courtney Gallagher is a junior studying English at Westminster College in Missouri. She is an intern for the Content Development team in the office of Federal Student Aid at the U.S. Department of Education.

Photo by Getty Images.

A Guide to Reporting Parent Info on Your FAFSA

If you’re planning to go to college in fall 2016, you will definitely want to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). Not only does the FAFSA give you access to grants and loans from the federal government, but many states and schools also use information from the FAFSA to award their financial aid.

If you are considered a dependent student for the purposes of the FAFSA, you’re required to provide information about your parent(s) on the application. (Note: The dependency guidelines for the FAFSA are set by Congress and are different from those used on tax returns.) You might be wondering which parent’s information to report or what you should do if your parents are divorced or remarried, or if you live with another family member.

Don’t worry; we can help you figure out whose information to include. For a quick visual reference, check out our infographic, Who’s My Parent When I Fill Out the FAFSA?

Who's My Parent When I Fill Out My FAFSA? Graphic

Click to enlarge

Or, if you want more information, here are some guidelines. Unless noted, “parent” means your legal (biological or adoptive) parent.

  • If your parents are living and legally married to each other, answer the questions about both of them.
  • If your parents are living together and are not married, answer the questions about both of them.
  • If your parents are divorced or separated and don’t live together, answer the questions about the parent with whom you lived more during the past 12 months. If you lived the same amount of time with each parent, give answers about the parent who provided more financial support during the past 12 months or during the most recent 12 months that you actually received support from a parent. If you have a stepparent who is married to the legal parent whose information you’re reporting, you must provide information about that stepparent as well.

The following people are not considered your parents on your FAFSA unless they have adopted you: grandparents, foster parents, legal guardians, older brothers or sisters, and uncles or aunts.

Curious about what information you and your parents will need to provide on the FAFSA? Learn more about the FAFSA and how to fill it out at StudentAid.gov/fafsa.

If you still have questions or are unsure what to do if your parents are unable or unwilling to provide their information for your FAFSA, you can get more information at StudentAid.ed.gov/fafsa-parent.

Tara Marini is a data and communications analyst, and Cindy Forbes Cameron is a lead communications analyst, at the Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid.

The FSA ID: Your First Step to Getting Financial Aid for College

Do You Have An FSA ID Yet?

We all know college is super expensive, and I’m sure that you, like me, would welcome any and all help in paying for it. Luckily for us, that’s where the government comes in. “But how do I get them to help pay my tuition?” you may ask. While I (unfortunately) can’t guarantee you any money, I can tell you a good way to go about getting some of that financial help: Fill out your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). To do that, you are going to need an FSA ID.

What is the FSA ID?

The FSA ID recently replaced the PIN as the way you log in to certain U.S. Department of Education (ED) websites, including fafsa.gov. It consists of a username and password and is basically the electronic equivalent of your signature. It’s easy to set up, and you can get one on a variety of ED websites. (I would recommend StudentAid.gov/fsaid because there is also a lot of good information and advice about student aid and the FSA ID there).

Incoming College Students

Everyone who will be in college next year and plans on applying for federal financial aid should get an FSA ID. If next year will be your first year in college, just go ahead and create your FSA ID and use it to sign your FAFSA. What happens next is that ED checks your information with the Social Security Administration to make sure it matches. That takes about one to three days. During that time, you will only be able to use your FSA ID to sign your new FAFSA (that’s the main thing though, so don’t stress). Then, after the Social Security Administration match is done, you should receive an e-mail letting you know that you’ll now be able to use your FSA ID on a number of ED websites.

I know that applying for federal student aid can be a stressful experience, but don’t worry! The FSA ID is easy to figure out. You can go to StudentAid.gov/fsaid and it will provide some super helpful information such as what you should gather beforehand, and a link to create your own FSA ID—plus it will walk you through the entire process.

To get an FSA ID, you’ll need this information:

  • your Social Security number
  • your full and correct name
  • your date of birth

Current College Students

If, like me, you are already in college, you probably filled out your previous FAFSA using a Federal Student Aid PIN. If you’ll be returning to college next year and are applying for more federal student aid, you will need to get an FSA ID—the PIN won’t work anymore. When creating your FSA ID, there will be an option to enter your PIN and link the two. Even if you’ve forgotten your PIN, you can answer the challenge question you created while creating your PIN and still be able to link your PIN to your FSA ID. You can find more information about all this at StudentAid.gov/fsaid.

Linking your PIN can save you time because your information won’t have to be matched by the Social Security Administration if it was already matched when you created your PIN. If that’s the case, then your FSA ID is ready for full use right away—which means you’ll be able to sign a Master Promissory Note for a student loan, or fill out your Renewal FAFSA, right away.

If you don’t remember your PIN or didn’t have one, don’t worry. You can still create an FSA ID from scratch.

Video on How to Create an FSA ID:

Some Tips About the FSA ID

  • Keep your FSA ID in a safe place and/or memorize it. It’s your legal signature. Keep it a secret.
  • One of your parents might need an FSA ID as well. If you’re considered a dependent student and need to provide information about your parents on the FAFSA, one of your parents will have to sign the application. He or she can sign electronically with his or her own FSA ID.
  • If you share an e-mail address with someone else, only one of you will be able to use that e-mail address to create an FSA ID. Each FSA ID can be associated with only one e-mail address. So, for instance, if you’re a dependent student, and you and your mom share an e-mail address, one of you should get a new e-mail address before creating an FSA ID.
  • Make your FSA ID early! Don’t leave it until right before your FAFSA is due. That adds a lot of stress (I would know!!!) that you don’t need.

Megan Friebe is a freshman at Michigan State University, where she spends her days studying public affairs and social policy, her evenings studying the same thing, and, if she’s lucky, her nights sleeping. She also manages to find time to intern with the Customer Experience team in the office of Federal Student Aid at the U.S. Department of Education.

#LatinosAchieve When We Believe in Them

Today, a high school education is simply not enough. The global, knowledge-based economy that we live in means that some post-secondary education, whether that be a 2-year degree, a 4-year degree, a certificate or a credential, is essential. Which is why we must invest in the educational future of our Hispanic youth. Hispanic youth are in large part the face of our nation and our next generation of leaders. So we need to invest in them if we want to be serious about our future. Although Hispanic high school dropout rates hit a record low at 13 percent in 2012, they’re still higher than any other demographic. Hispanic youth will represent 70 percent of population growth in our country between 2015 and 2060, and are rapidly growing faster than any other minority group. It is our duty to make sure that our next generation of politicians, teachers, CEOs, engineers and entrepreneurs are equipped with the skills they need to succeed.

Progress is being made but not nearly fast enough. And for me, this isn’t simply an intellectual matter. As a Puerto Rican, I’ve seen first-hand how the power of a great education can change lives across the country, as well as back home on the island that gave birth to my mother.

That’s one of the reasons why I’m so proud to lead First Lady Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher Initiative. We work to inspire young people to take control of their future by exposing students to college and career opportunities, making financial aid and college affordability a reality, supporting academic and summer planning, and investing in school counselors. We want young people, including Hispanics, to know that education after high school has to be part of their plan. That enrolling and completing college is essential to ensuring their achievement and success.

When speaking at the 85th Annual Conference of the League of United Latin American Citizens last year, the First lady spoke about the need for investing in education for Hispanic youth. She said, “As you know, too many young people in the Latino community simply aren’t fulfilling their potential… We have got to … reignite that hunger for opportunity — that hunger for education – across all of our communities. And we all have a role to play in this endeavor. Parents have to be reading to their kids from an early age and making sure they go to school every day and do their homework every night. Our young people, you have a role to play as well. You have to make education your number-one priority and be role models for those around you.”

The efforts led by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, including their nearly $340 million in public and private sector commitments and the U.S. Department of Education’s work to make college accessible and affordable are key to ensuring this population has the tools they need to achieve.

This issue requires all-hands-on-deck approach to make sure students and families are getting access to the resources and information to help make college a reality. That might be filling out the FAFSA, which gives students access to $150 billion in aid for college, or talking to your school counselor, who can help students or families navigate the application process. It also means taking rigorous, college-ready courses like Advanced Placement; and it means thinking about getting internships and mentorship programs that can help young people see the value of a college degree.

We also need to make the process easier. President Obama and the First Lady have been working hard to create and promote tools such as the College Scorecard to help make students find the best college value and fit. They also recently announced that starting in 2016, students can begin filling out the FAFSA three months earlier, so that financial aid can be secured earlier and in time to help make college decisions.

To the young Hispanics who are now in the swing of school, challenge yourselves to take your education seriously. Start talking to your parents about finances, take challenging classes, build strong bonds with your teachers and administration, join clubs and extracurriculars that will expose you to new things, and most importantly believe in yourselves. Believe that you can achieve and do whatever you put your mind to; starting with college. Because we do.

Eric Waldo is the Executive Director for the Reach Higher Initiative

Federal Student Aid PIN (1998 -2015)

Federal Student Aid PIN tombstone

Federal Student Aid PIN, known as PIN to his many friends, died on May 10, 2015, after a long life of public service. Born in Washington, D.C. in 1998, PIN immediately made his presence felt across the country as he helped students complete their FAFSAs electronically on the World Wide Web. For 17 years, PIN reduced the completion time of federal student aid applications by millions of hours. Success with the FAFSA led to an extended career spanning the entire student aid life cycle, ranging from the aforementioned FAFSA and the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, entrance and exit counseling, and signing Master Promissory Notes, all the way to loan history access on the National Student Loan Data System and—more recently—StudentAid.gov. PIN is survived by one child, FSA ID.

On May 10, 2015, we changed the way you log in to Federal Student Aid websites. Students, parents, and borrowers are now required to use an FSA ID, instead of a Federal Student Aid PIN, to log in. If you haven’t logged in to a Federal Student Aid website (such as fafsa.gov or StudentLoans.gov) since May 10, you will need to create an FSA ID before you can log on in the future.

Create an FSA ID here: StudentAid.gov/fsaid

Q: What is an FSA ID and why do I need one?

A: An FSA ID is a username and password you use to access your personal information on Federal Student Aid websites and to sign important documents.

Q: What happened to the Federal Student Aid PIN?

A: On May 10, 2015, after 17 years of dedicated service, the PIN was retired to make way for the more modern and secure FSA ID.

Q: If I already submitted my FAFSA this year, do I already have an FSA ID?

A: The FSA ID replaced the PIN on May 10, 2015. If you submitted your FAFSA before that, you used a PIN. In order to do anything with your FAFSA or any other Federal Student Aid websites, you will now need an FSA ID. You can create one at StudentAid.gov/fsaid

Q: Who needs an FSA ID?

A: Students, parents, and borrowers who need to log in or interact with Federal Student Aid websites need an FSA ID.

Q: Can I make an FSA ID for someone else, such as my child or my parent?

A: No. Only the FSA ID owner should create and use the FSA ID. Why? The FSA ID is a legal signature that should be used only by its owner. If you don’t create your own FSA ID, then you may not be able to access the websites you need to get your financial aid!

Q: How do I get an FSA ID?

A: Go to StudentAid.gov/fsaid to create an FSA ID. If you have a PIN, then you can enter your PIN during the FSA ID registration process so that you won’t need to wait for the Social Security Administration to verify your information. But, if you don’t have a PIN or don’t have it handy, you can still create an FSA ID.

Q: Do I have to wait before I use my FSA ID?

A: You can use your FSA ID to sign and submit a new FAFSA right away. For other tasks, if you didn’t link your PIN when you created your account, you’ll need to wait one–three days for us to confirm your identity with the Social Security Administration. You’ll get an e-mail when this process is complete.

Q: What if I forget my FSA ID username or password?

A: Don’t worry. On our log-in pages, you’ll find links that give you the option of retrieving your username or password through your verified e-mail address or by successfully answering your challenge questions.

For answers to other frequently asked questions about the new FSA ID, go here: StudentAid.gov/fsaid.

Help Us Get the Word Out About Tools and Resources for Student Loan Repayment

Federal Student Aid is the largest provider of student financial aid (including federal student loans) in the country. Once it’s time for borrowers to repay their student loans, we’re also here to help with free tools and resources to make the repayment process easier.

Federal Student Aid recently launched a student loan repayment campaign to educate borrowers about affordable repayment options and to provide them with the tools and resources they need to make informed decisions. We need your help to spread the campaign’s important messages!

Here’s what you can do today:

  • Direct student loan borrowers to StudentAid.gov/repay to learn more about the affordable repayment options we offer.
  • Visit FinancialAidToolkit.ed.gov/repayment to explore plug-and-play resources you can use to educate borrowers about student loan repayment. Some examples of what we offer include social media content, fact sheets, infographics, videos, and repayment calculators.

On the Financial Aid Toolkit page, we’ve got a section,3 Easy Ways to Spread the Word,” that provides a rotating selection of shareable content you can use to help borrowers better understand their repayment options. Every two weeks, we will refresh this section with updated information such as a short video, a popular tweet, or a link to a blog post. We encourage you to share this content with individuals and organizations in your network through e-mail, social media, your website, and any other channel that works best for you.

Our campaign runs through June 30, but valuable, free repayment resources are always available at StudentAid.gov/repay for borrowers and at FinancialAidToolkit.ed.gov for mentors and advisors.

Thank you for your support!

Wendy Bhagat is Director of Awareness and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid.

Goodbye, Federal Student Aid PIN. Hello, FSA ID!

FSA ID Blog Post Image

If you’re a student, parent, or borrower and you’re logging in to a U.S. Department of Education (ED) website – like fafsa.gov, the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS®) at www.nslds.ed.gov, StudentLoans.gov, StudentAid.gov, and Agreement to Serve (ATS) at teach-ats.ed.gov – you will be asked to create new log-in credentials known as the FSA ID.

The FSA ID – a username and password – benefits you in four ways:

  • It removes your personally identifiable information (PII), like your Social Security number, from your log-in credentials
  • It creates a more secure and efficient way to verify your information when you log in to access to your federal student aid information online
  • It gives you the ability to easily update your personal information, like your phone number, e-mail address, or your name
  • It allows you to easily retrieve your username and password by requesting a secure code be sent to your e-mail address or by answering challenge questions

Creating an FSA ID is simple and only takes a few minutes. You’ll have an opportunity to link your current Federal Student Aid PIN to your FSA ID. Doing so allows you to use your newly created FSA ID almost immediately to log in to the five ED websites listed above. Even if you’ve forgotten your FSA PIN or don’t have one, you can still create an FSA ID.

The final step in creating an FSA ID is to confirm your e-mail address. You’ll be sent a secure code to the e-mail address you entered when you created your FSA ID. Once you retrieve the code from your e-mail account and enter it – to confirm your e-mail address is valid – you’ll be able to use this e-mail address instead of your username to log in to the five ED websites, making the log-in process EVEN simpler!

Remember, your federal student aid account information is valuable. Only the owner of the FSA ID should create and use the account. And you should never share your FSA ID.

For more information about the FSA ID, please visit StudentAid.gov/fsaid.

April Jordan is a senior communications specialist at Federal Student Aid.

Student Loan Forgiveness (and Other Ways the Government Can Help You Repay Your Loans)


Here’s a question a lot of people may be wondering … Is it really possible to have my federal student loans forgiven or to get help repaying them?

The answer is: Yes! However, there are very specific eligibility requirements for each situation in which you can apply for loan forgiveness or receive help with repayment. Loan forgiveness means that you don’t have to pay back some or all of your loan. You never know what you may be eligible for, so take a look at the options we have listed below. The first three options focus on loan forgiveness programs. The next two options are government programs based on your service.

  1. Teacher Loan Forgiveness

If you teach full-time for five complete and consecutive academic years in certain elementary and secondary schools and educational service agencies that serve low-income families, and meet other qualifications, you may be eligible for forgiveness of up to a combined total of $17,500 on certain federal student loans. Get the details about Teacher Loan Forgiveness here.

  1. Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)

If you work full-time for a government or not-for-profit organization you may qualify for forgiveness of the entire remaining balance of your Direct Loans after you’ve made 120 qualifying payments—that is, 10 years of payments. Learn more about PSLF now! To benefit from PSLF, you should repay your federal student loans under an income-driven repayment plan.

  1. Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) Plan

If you repay your loans under an income-driven repayment plan, the remaining balance on your student loans will be forgiven after you make a certain number of payments. You will likely qualify for an income-driven repayment plan if your outstanding federal student loan debt is higher than your annual income or if it represents a significant portion of your annual income. More about IDR plans and how to apply.

  1. Military Service

In acknowledgement of your service to our country, there are special benefits and repayment options for your student loans available from the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Defense, such as interest rate caps under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, other interest rate relief, and student loan repayment programs. Learn more about federal student loan benefits for members of the U.S. armed forces.

  1. AmeriCorps

The Segal AmeriCorps Education Award is a post-service benefit received by participants who complete a term of national service in an approved AmeriCorps program—AmeriCorps VISTA, AmeriCorps NCCC, or AmeriCorps State and National. Upon successful completion of the service, members are eligible to receive a Segal AmeriCorps Education Award which can be used to repay qualified student loans.

If the options listed above don’t apply to you, but you need help making your federal student loan payments, contact your loan servicer about the option to

Sandra Vuong is a digital engagement strategist at the Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid.

How to Qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness


Everyone wants their student loans forgiven. The perception is that very few qualify. But did you know that there is one broad, employment-based forgiveness program for federal student loans? Let me break down some key points of PSLF to help you figure out if you could qualify.

[ 1 ] Work in Qualifying Employment

First, you need to work for the right employer—a public service employer. What does that mean? Everyone has a different definition. Ours is based on who employs you, not what you do at work. Here’s what qualifies:

  • Governmental organizations – Federal, state, local, Tribal
  • 501(c)(3) organizations
  • A not-for-profit organization that provides specific public services, such as public education or public health

Here’s what doesn’t qualify:

  • Labor unions
  • Partisan political organizations
  • For-profit organizations

[ 2 ] Qualifying Employment Status

If you work at one of these types of organizations—great! Next, you need to work in a qualifying employment status, which means that you must be a full-time employee. For us, full-time means that you meet your employer’s definition or work at least 30 hours per week, whichever is greater.

[ 3 ] Have a Qualifying Loan

A qualifying loan is a Direct Loan. It’s that simple. Of course, it’s the government, so nothing is actually that simple. There are (or were) three big federal student loan programs:

If you’re not sure which loan program, I can’t blame you—I had 20 loans when I finished graduate school! You can log in to My Federal Student Aid to determine which program you borrowed from. Here’s a tip: if you see “Direct” in the name, it’s a Direct Loan. Otherwise, it’s not.

Don’t have a Direct Loan? Don’t despair! You can consolidate your federal student loans into a Direct Consolidation Loan and qualify for PSLF. Not having a Direct Loan is the biggest reason that borrowers aren’t on track for PSLF, so do your homework. If you need to consolidate, check the box in the application that says that you’re consolidating for the purposes of loan forgiveness. It will make your life easier.

[ 4 ] Have a Qualifying Repayment Plan

Next, you need a qualifying repayment plan. All of the “income-driven repayment plans” qualify. So does the 10-year Standard Repayment Plan, but if you’re on that plan, you should switch to an income-driven repayment plan right now, or you will have little or nothing to forgive after you meet all of the criteria.

If you’re consolidating, be sure to apply for an income-driven repayment plan because the Standard Repayment Plan for Direct Consolidation Loans almost never qualifies.

You can apply for an income-driven repayment plan on StudentLoans.gov.

[ 5 ] Make 120 Qualifying Payments

Lastly, you need to make qualifying payments—120 of them. A qualifying payment is exactly what you think it is. You get a bill. It has an “amount due” and a “due date”. Make your full payment by the due date (or up to 15 days later), and the payment qualifies. If you make a payment when you’re not required to—say, because, you’re in a deferment or you paid your student loan well in advance—then it doesn’t count. The best way to set yourself up for success is to sign up for automatic payments with your servicer.

Your payments do not need to be consecutive. So, if you make qualifying payments, stop, and then start again, you don’t start over.

I’m sorry to have to mention a random date, but a payment only qualifies if it was made after October 1, 2007, so nobody can qualify until 2017 at the earliest.

Okay, so do I qualify?

Now, let’s put it all together. For any payment to count toward PSLF, you need to meet all of the criteria when you make each payment. That means you need to be working for a qualifying employer on a full-time basis when you make a qualifying payment under a qualifying repayment plan on a Direct Loan.

I know all of you are still thinking—“that’s great, but do I qualify?” Here’s how you find out. Download this form. Fill it out. Have your employer certify it. Send it to FedLoan Servicing (one of our federal student loan servicers). FedLoan Servicing will figure this all out and let you know whether your employment qualifies, and how many qualifying payments you’ve made.

Submit the form early and often. We recommend once per year or when you change jobs. Why? Because it means that you won’t have to submit 10 years’ worth of forms when you ultimately want to apply for forgiveness. It also means that you can apply for forgiveness with confidence.

One more piece of good news: PSLF is tax-free.

Ian Foss has worked as a program specialist for the Department of Education since 2010. He’s scheduled to be eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness on October 6, 2021, if all goes according to plan.