The ever so time-consuming process of filling out your FAFSA may seem horrifying, but following some of our time-tested tips and tricks will help you get through the application process. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is your ticket to federal student aid, including scholarships, grants and student loans.
Completing the FAFSA is a question-by-question guide to the FAFSA. It offers help, hints, and definitions in case you get stuck on any of the questions.
Here are some of our tips to filling out the ever so important FAFSA form:
Create a FSA ID
You and your child should get FSA IDs. A FSA ID is a username and password that you’ll be using to sign the FAFSA. You and your child each need your own FSA ID—and you each need to create your own for privacy purposes and because the information is easier to remember if you create your own. (Note: Only one of a student’s parents needs to sign the student’s FAFSA, so only one parent needs an FSA ID.)
Gather The Stuff You’ll Need Before Filling Out The FAFSA
Some things you will need are: your Social Security number; driver’s license; W-2 forms federal income tax returns for the prior, prior (2016 for 2018 FAFSA) year along with your spouse’s, if married; student’s federal income tax returns for the prior, prior year; current bank statements; and alien registration or permanent residence card for non-U.S. citizens. If applicable, you will also need business and investment mortgage information, business and farm records, and stock, bond and other investment records.
Apply Early: October 1
Fill out and submit your FAFSA on October 1 or as soon after as possible, no matter how far away the actual deadline. Some college and federal aid, particularly grants and scholarships, is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, so filing your FAFSA early ensures that you will receive the maximum amount of financial aid.
Check and Double Check Your Answers
Errors and omissions slow things down when it comes to the FAFSA, making you miss out on some or all of your financial aid. You want to double-check every piece of info you put down. Even things as simple as an address that’s incorrect can greatly slow things down. Make sure that both you and the student SIGN the FAFSA!
Put Everything In Your Name, Not The Student’s Name
Having extra cash laying around in your bank account is not a good thing before filling out the FAFSA. Consider making purchases such as books, computers and other things you’ll need for college and to get a jump start on bill payments for the next few months, or even the entire year. You want to have as little cash on hand as possible when filing. Spend the money on things you would have to spend it on in the future anyways, such as bills, equipment, etc.
Don’t Earn Too Much Income
Not only should you minimize your income, if possible, during the base year, watch your student’s income earnings, as earning too much money can reduce the amount of financial aid you receive. (BASE YEAR is now “PRIOR, PRIOR” year, which means that for the 2018 Graduates, the FAFSA will look at 2016 income.) The first $2,440 in income that your child makes is exempt, but wages beyond that amount will be assessed at a rate of 50 percent. This means that you lose 50 cents in financial aid eligibility for every dollar your student earns beyond $2,440.
Talk With One of Our College Planners About Configuring Your EFC
College Planners are great at helping you position money and assets to greatly reduce your EFC. Our college planners won’t even bill you or take you on as a client, if they can’t save you well more than their fee. It’s a huge win for the family. At minimum, call one to see if they could shave money off your tuition responsibility for a free consult. Our office number is 904-625-0299.