Carroll College, Helena Montana

FAFSA Information

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

Prior Prior Year (PPY) FAFSA

President Obama announced on September 14, 2015, that the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) will switch from prior-year to prior-prior-year income and tax data  The change will take effect with the 2017-2018 FAFSA.  Instead of waiting until your and/or your parents have completed your tax returns for the previous year, you will be able to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or the FAFSA, using information from two years prior.  Please watch the quick video below to learn more about how you'll benefit from this new move to using prior-prior year income data.


If you would like to be considered for any federal need-based aid (Pell Grant, FSEOG Grant, Stafford loans, Perkins loans, and Federal Work-Study) or Carroll College need-based aid, you must complete the FAFSA. It is easy if you take a few steps to get prepared. In December, pull up the online FAFSA pre-application to get an idea of the questions you'll need to answer. After January 1, complete the FAFSA using 2015 income tax information. If your 2015 income tax information is not yet available, prior year income tax information may be used to estimate on the FAFSA. If using prior year information, you must log back into the FAFSA and make a correction once your 2015 federal income tax information becomes available. The results of your FAFSA or the expected family contribution will be sent to each school you list on the FAFSA. Processed FAFSA results must be received by Carroll College by March 1, 2016 for consideration for institutional need-based aid.

Carroll College recommends filing the FAFSA electronically in order to expedite processing. The estimated processing time for electronic applications is 48-72 hours vs. 3-4 weeks for a paper application.

Create a FSA USER ID

Gather the necessary materials ahead of time:

[ ] If you are a first-time electronic filer, please request a Department of Education FSA USER ID, which will serve as your signature on the FAFSA. For dependent students, a parent must also request an FSA USER ID. FSA USER ID's are required for submitting the FAFSA, making corrections, and checking the status of your application. How to create an FSA USER iD

[ ] Social Security Number


[ ] Your parents' financial records, including most recent federal income tax returns, with all schedules; W-2 forms and other records of most recent earnings; current bank statements, mortgage information, business, farm or investment records; 1099 forms; and records of untaxed income, Veteran, Social Security and Welfare benefits.

A process referred to as IRS Data Retrieval (available in mid-February 2016), will enable Title IV student aid applicants and parents of dependent applicants to transfer certain federal tax information from an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website directly to their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) on the Web application.  The intent is to simplify and streamline the student aid application experience for students and parents. 

Allowing applicants to transfer information directly from the IRS' database into the electronic FAFSA application will reduce time, effort, and data entry for FAFSA applicants and their parents.  It will also improve data accuracy and consistency, reduce the need for corrections and minimize the possibility of verification selection.

[ ] It's easier to fill out the FAFSA if you have a completed 2015 federal tax return, but you can use estimates rather than missing a deadline.  Applicants can file the FAFSA earlier (using estimated information), and then return to the saved electronic FAFSA to retreive IRS data once federal taxes have been completed.  Applicants will be able to use the FASFA-IRS Data Retrieval process when making online corrections to their FAFSA - not just at time of initial FAFSA completion.  

[ ] Have your information sent to Carroll College, code 002526.


Read all instructions thoroughly.  Work through each step carefully and accurately.  Careless errors can cost you time which may mean missed deadlines and dollars!  Avoid the most common mistakes:

  • Spelling name incorrectly. Spell your name exactly as it appears on your Social Security card.  Using a nickname or other name will cause delays. 
  • Leaving a field blank
  • Not reporting ALL untaxed income
  • Not reporting step parent information
  • Reporting the wrong "taxes paid"
  • Incorrect number of family members attending post-secondary education
  • Not signing the form or filing on time

Errors made in completing the FAFSA and/or supplemental forms may delay application processing and result in the loss of financial aid funds.

For additional FAFSA video instructions, visit the SmartAboutCollege website.

Start your FAFSA at »

After your FAFSA is submitted

After your FAFSA is submitted you will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR).

The SAR reports your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), the number used in determining your eligibility for federal student aid. From the EFC, the college will determine your demonstrated financial need.

Here is an example:

2016-2017 Estimated Cost of Attendance (COA): $47,298
Expected Family Contribution (EFC): ($5,123)
Demonstrated Financial Need: $42,175

NOTE: Need varies based on cost of attendance

Your FAFSA results will be sent to you and to the schools that you listed on your application. If you file electronically, the results are available on-line. If you file a paper application, you will receive the results in the mail.

File the FAFSA earlier

The FAFSA is made available January 1 of each calendar year, yet it is uncommon for a family or individual to be prepared to file an income tax return in the month of January. Under the new PPY system, the 2017-18 FAFSA will be available in October 2016, rather than January 1, 2017, and students can use the PPY's (2015) completed income tax return. Carroll's priority deadline for receipt of the FAFSA will be December 1 of each year.

More easily submit a FAFSA

The IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT), which allows automatic population of a student's FAFSA with tax return data and decreases the need for additional documentation, can be used by millions more students and families under PPY, since the data from two-years prior would be readily available upon application.

FAFSA Overview


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