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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 an FSA ID. If you do not already have an FSA ID, you can create one when logging in to For step by step instructions please click here. Dependent students need at least one parent to apply for an FSA ID.  Once the Social Security Administration  verifies your information in one to three days, you will be able to use your FSA ID to access and other Department of Education websites.

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.
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, 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 2014 IRS income tax information into the student’s FAFSA.  For more information on the IRS DRT please click here.
IRS Data Retrieval Tool Video Tutorial click here.

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.