A Parent’s Guide to the FAFSA: Student Demographics
This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by Vinay Bhaskara in a CollegeVine livestream. You can watch the full livestream for more info.
- Pre-Filled FAFSA Information
- Common FAFSA Mistakes and Questions
- Information Over Prior Education
- Work Study Program
- Military Draft Status
Pre-Filled FAFSA Information
When you get to the section about a student’s demographic information, the student’s social security number, first name, last name, and date of birth might already be filled in. This is because you already gave FAFSA this information when you created the account. Make sure to double-check that all this information is correct.
Common FAFSA Mistakes and Questions
Fill out this section with the student’s information
The most common mistake parents make when filling out this section of the FAFSA form is filling out the student demographic section with their own information.
Remember that this form is over the student, so the term “your” will always refer to the student. Making this mistake can lead to a headache down the line, so keep an eye out for this.
Include the student’s contact information
Another mistake made by parents is leaving the student email and phone section blank. If you don’t include your student’s contact information here, they will not receive emails about their FAFSA forms.
Many parents want their students to be involved throughout this process. However, if you prefer to just handle things yourself, then you don’t have to enter their email address and phone number.
Why Is The Home Address Important?
The student’s home address is a required field, so make sure not to leave this one blank. While a student’s residency isn’t going to necessarily matter as much for federal financial aid, it does impact how certain colleges apply state level financial aid. There are some states that use the FAFSA form to determine their aid and administer in-state financial aid programs.
There will be a question over your student’s home address and if they have been living there for more than 5 years. Depending on your answer, FAFSA could have you fill out more information over your student’s current legal residency.
The biggest question in this section is if the student is a U.S citizen. You have three options for this question: “Yes, you are a U.S citizen”, “No, but you’re an eligible non-citizen” and “No, you’re neither a citizen nor an eligible non-citizen”. If you click the last option, your student will no longer be able to fill out the FAFSA form because they will not qualify for federal financial aid.
What Makes a First-Generation Student?
Questions over a parent’s highest education are important in determining if your student is a first-generation student. If either of a student’s parents have already attended college, then they are usually not considered a first-generation student. A student is only considered first-generation student when neither of their parent’s have completed their college education.
If a student has been part of the foster care system, then the questions following will change slightly, but they will be easy to follow as well.
Once you have completed the last questions over the education level of your student’s parents, you have completed the last questions in the student demographic section of the FAFSA form.
Information Over Prior Education
The next section in this form goes into your student’s educational status. First, they will ask what your student’s High School completion status is when they begin college. For most of you it’s going to be the High School diploma option, but there is also an option for GED and homeschooled students. Pick the option that describes your student’s prior education.
Next up they will ask what college degree or certificate your student will be working towards when they begin the school year. For most students filling out the FAFSA form, they will be working for their first bachelor’s degree. There will also be some questions over whether your student has gone to college before and if they will have their first bachelor’s degree when they begin the next school year. This is fairly straightforward, but make sure to choose the option that describes your student’s path.
Lastly, they will ask which college grade level your student will be entering into. For most students, it will be their first year. If your student had previously attended community college, they will also fall into the first year grouping, but make sure to pick the associates degree for the previous college experience question that was asked above.
Work Study Program
The question over your student’s interest in the work study program is very important. The work study program is federal financial aid that gives you an on-campus job at whatever institution you end up attending. This job would be paid for through federal financial aid dollars. While the job is administered by the college you end up enrolling in, it’s paid for by financial aid.
If you want to be considered for work study, you want to select “yes” for this question. It is important you make the decision here because you won’t be able to change your answer until next year’s form.
Military Draft Status
The last question you’ll get is about your student’s sex assigned at birth. It is important to know that this is your student’s sex, not gender. The only options here are male or female. While the federal student aid hasn’t quite caught up in terms of inclusivity, they ask this question to find out information over your student’s enrollment in the selective service system, which is the military draft. If you answer “male” for this question, another question will pop up asking if your student has registered for the selective service system. Males between the ages of 18 and 25 are usually required to register for the draft. For this question, you either select yes or no. There is no upside or downside for this in terms of financial aid.
The next couple questions will be over your student’s driver’s license. If your student doesn’t have one, you can leave this section blank.
One thing to keep in mind when filling out the FAFSA is to ensure your student’s information matches the information they filled out in their common app or on other college applications. This is something the FAFSA form looks for. If there are minor inconsistencies, it might not be the end of the world, but you don’t want to find yourself in a position where you have to defend any mistakes made. For a more in-depth guide over the entire FAFSA application, check out our article: The Ultimate Guide to Filling Out the FAFSA.