The FAFSA PIN is the number you will want to have when filling out your FAFSA. The PIN usually consists on four numbers and can be used on a few federal financial aid web sites. You, the student, want to make sure you get a PIN and your custodial parent needs to get one too if you are considered a dependent student. If your parents are still married, then it does not matter which one gets a PIN. The PIN is primarily used for signing your application when you are finished. You can still print out a signature page and mail it in, but we are in the computer age and it is just so much easier to put in a number.
The first step in getting your PIN is to apply for one at the PIN web site, www.pin.ed.gov. If it is the first time you are applying for one, the government needs to verify who you are and it takes a couple of business days to do this. They will try to match up the information you gave to the social security database. Make sure you apply for the PIN under the exact information that is on your social security card. If it does not match, you will be denied a PIN and have to start the process all over again. This is especially important for people who are recently married and have not updated the social security administration yet.
If you put an email address in the application, you will receive an email in 1-3 business days with a link to retrieve your PIN. It is very important to keep this PIN in a safe place. Treat it like it was your bank card PIN. Once you and your parent have PIN’s, you can now move on and complete the application. You will be asked to enter your PIN at the start of the application and if your parent needs to put in information, it will ask for their PIN at the end of the application.
If you enter the PIN’s on the application, it will take several processing days of your application. Your FAFSA will be processed and sent to the school or schools on your application within one business day. Please keep in mind that schools do not always download applications every single day. So your application might be ready for the school to download, but they only do this once or twice a week.
PIN numbers can also be used to sign Stafford Loan Promissory notes and you can also use it to look up your information on the National Student Loan Database System (NSLDS). If you ever forget or lose your PIN, you can always go back to the PIN site at www.pin.ed.gov and request a duplicate PIN. These days, you will get it instantly and it can be used immediately.
Problems with Your PIN?
If you ever forget your PIN, you can easily get it back on the pin.edu.gov website. You will need to enter your Social Security number, the first two letters of your last name, and your birthday. One interesting safety feature of the website is the “virtual keyboard,” which lets you type in the numbers without worrying about a keylogger. A keylogger is a type of program or virus that records the strokes on your keyboard and uses them to hack into bank accounts and email accounts.
You can also check your PIN status or apply for a duplicate PIN on the same website, using the same information. If you disabled your PIN in the past but want to reestablish it, you can do so on the website. Other options include activating your PIN, changing your PIN, or changing your contact information.
When to Apply For a PIN
Remember that you should apply for a PIN at least a week before you plan to use it. The website is the fastest way to get a new PIN. Deadlines always overload the PIN website, so do not wait.
Another tip is that you should keep your PIN in a safe place. A lock box or safe is best. You are going to need to use your PIN every year when you fill out the application, so try not to lose it. Of course, there are several ways of retrieving it in case you forget it or lose the piece of paper.
Using a PIN is safer than ever, thanks to new security features recently implemented by the Department of Education. An electronic access code keeps your personal information safe, yet accessible to those who need it.
State Financial Aid
The FAFSA is not only used to get federal financial aid, but also state financial aid. Once you submit your application, it is forwarded by the Department of Education to your home state. Your state of residency requires the form to determine your aid eligibility. Be aware that each state has a different submission deadline, which is usually between April and June. Missing this deadline may mean forfeiting state financial aid for the year.
Residency for Dependent Students
Dependent students are those that mostly rely on parents for financial help. Most people under age 24 are automatically classified as dependent unless they have extenuating circumstances. Each state has residency requirements that must be met by potential students seeking aid. For example, in Arkansas, you must have a parent who has lived in the state for at least six months before you enter college. Alaska has strict regulations, as they only grant residency after you have lived there for two years. If your parents are divorced, your residency is determined by where your custodial parent lives full-time.
Residency for Independent Students
Most independent students are at least 24 years old, but there are some exceptions. If you are classified as an independent student, you must live in your home state for at least a year or two before the first day of college classes. Florida, for example, requires a year of residency plus certain grades and test scores to get the in-state Bright Futures Scholarship. This scholarship pays for 75 percent to 100 percent of in-state tuition. It can really pay off to go to in-state schools!
If you want to go to an out-of-state school, it may make financial sense to see about getting residency there to save money. Some students spend a year working in their new home state to gain residency and then matriculate into their college as an in-state student paying in-state tuition.