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How to Navigate FAFSA while Experiencing Homelessness

Understanding how to access federal financial aid can be especially challenging for students experiencing homelessness. But recent changes to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application are simplifying the process. Below is a step-by-step guide outlining the new changes and how to apply for financial aid through FAFSA as a student experiencing homelessness. 

1. Gather necessary information: Before starting the application, collect the following: Social Security number, driver’s license or identification card, and relevant income records (tax returns, untaxed income records, or W-2 forms).

2. Create a Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID: Visit the FSA website (fsaid.ed.gov) and create an FSA ID. This ID will serve as your electronic signature throughout your application process.

3. Complete the FAFSA form: Access the FAFSA form at fafsa.ed.gov. Fill out the required information about yourself, your family, and your financial situation. When indicating your housing status, select the option that best matches your current situation as a student without housing.

4. Answer the single homelessness question: The new FAFSA draft only includes a single question about your housing status. You now only need to provide a singular response regarding your circumstances as an unhoused student.

5. Include necessary explanations: If the space FAFSA provides on their form does not sufficiently allow you to describe your situation, attach an additional statement describing your circumstances and its impact on your education. Provide any additional supporting documentation, if available.

6. Less reliance on documentation: New changes to the FAFSA advise financial aid administrators to place greater emphasis on statements from unhoused students, lifting the requirement of extensive paperwork to prove their status.

7. Reach out for help: If you want further guidance or have questions during the application process, you can reach out to the financial aid offices at the colleges or universities you plan to apply to or attend. They can provide you with more tailored support and information. For general questions, you can call the processor of FAFSA at 800-433-3243.

8. Submit the FAFSA form: Review your completed form and ensure all information is accurate. Then, submit the form electronically and keep a record of your submission confirmation.

9. Follow up: After submitting your FAFSA form, you should contact the financial aid office at the institution you plan to attend. Discuss with them your situation as an unhoused student. They will let you know of any additional verification or information they may require. Consider also inquiring about any potential scholarships or grants that relate to your specific circumstances.

Sources:

https://studentaid.gov/apply-for-aid/fafsa/filling-out

https://www.insidehighered.com/news/government/student-aid-policy/2023/05/09/huge-sense-relief-how-new-fafsa-could-help-homeless

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