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Financial Aid Checklist: Here’s what you need to get your funding

Before you hit the books, you have to be able to buy them. To do that, you can get started as early as April 16 of your school year. If your taxes are filed, you can get to work lining up your financial aid, said Jim Nolan, financial aid manager for Bryant & Stratton College.

“I definitely recommend they do it at least a month out (before classes start),” Nolan said. “A lot of times your books may be covered. So you want to get it processed and approved so you can order your books.”

The only official time constraint is you must file for aid within that student year, Nolan said.

The first step is requesting an electronic pin for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). That application measures your ability to pay for classes and determines what financial aid you may receive. You will also need:

  • The code for your college (Bryant & Stratton Online is 002678)
  • Bank statements and records of investments and untaxed income (if you have them)
  • Social Security number or Alien Registration Number
  • Your most recent federal income tax return, W-2s and other earnings records
  • Tax info from your parents if you’re still a dependent

It’s a fairly easy, online process, Nolan said.

“FAFSA really has come a long way in terms for being more user-friendly,” Nolan said. “Your typical family member or student can go through and follow the prompts and get through it. It really is so much easier than even if you filled it out four or five years ago.”

Once you’ve filled out FAFSA, the tool may direct you to more financial aid you didn’t realize you could receive, Nolan said.

There’s a chance you may be randomly selected to provide more information, Nolan said.

“About 30 percent of all students are selected for verification,” he said. “That would take some additional time, that’s why we definitely recommend they use the IRS tool.”

That tool will help you pull up all of your most recent tax information, which you may need if you fall into one of the five different verification categories the Department of Education may request.

“Standard verification requires the student to verify income and household size information,” Nolan said. “Successfully using the IRS tool reduces what the college will need to verify.”

Verification group 3 requires a student to verify if and to whom they pay child support. Verification group 4, identity verification, is designed to combat identity theft, Nolan said. If you’re selected for group 5, you’ll be asked to complete both the standard and identification verification. Group 6 requires a student to confirm sources of income if your reported income is less than half of the poverty guidelines, he said.

Any or all of these verifications will take some additional time, but even this process moves pretty quickly, he said.

“Right now if you are selected for verification, anyone but V4 or V5, you can probably do it same day turn around,” Nolan said.

Logging on to the IRS tool or showing proof of valid, government-issued ID may be all you need to satisfy the verification requirements.

If you make an error on your verification, don’t panic. You just have to correct and resubmit your information. The people in the financial aid office are happy to help, Nolan said.

“We’re always willing to help walk them through any issues they may have,” he said.

You can reach the financial aid office at 888-268-8404, option 4 for financial aid.

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