The COVID crisis has made many families keenly aware of the importance of financial aid in providing funds to help cover college costs. For new high school seniors the first step in learning how much financial aid they can receive comes in October when they file a FAFSA. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is the starting point for federal, state and institutional aid, and even some scholarships.
In some cases, your college might also ask you to complete a CSS Profile, which requires more in-depth information, or they may have a financial aid application form of their own. It is important to check each college’s website to determine their specific requirements. While there, check out all financial aid deadlines. These can vary by state and college, and can be surprisingly early. You definitely do not want to miss a deadline, so be sure to leave yourself plenty of time to correct errors and provide additional information.
I recommend that my students complete the FAFSA as soon as possible after it comes online October 1. Some programs have limited funding availability and are released only on a “first-come, first-served” basis. To make sure you are ready to complete this key application, here are the tasks you need to accomplish and the documents you will need to gather in September:
• Federal Income Tax Returns: Parent(s) and student should have their 2019 returns filed if applicable. Have copies of your 1040 available and everyone’s W-2 forms from 2019.
• FSA ID: This is your identification number and legal signature for submitting the FAFSA. Apply for it now at https://fsaid.ed.gov/npas/index.htm for student and parent if you have not already done so.
• Parent Info: Last name, first name of parent(s); Street address, City, State, Zip Code; Home Phone; Email; and Mobile Phone.
• Student Info: Last name, first name; Student Email; Student Mobile Phone; Name of high school/college; Year in high school/college; Driver’s license number.
• College Info: Colleges applying to. Be aware of those you plan to apply to for Early Action or Early Decision admission – the deadlines are different!
• Identification: Both parents’ and student’s Social Security numbers; your Alien Registration number if you are not a U.S. citizen.
• Birth dates for everyone.
• Investment Info: Most current statement for all bank accounts, stocks, bonds, trusts, 401K and other investments for parent and student. Include real estate investments (NOT the home in which you live) and business and farm assets for student and parents.
• Untaxed Info: Records of untaxed income, such as child support received, interest income, and veterans’ non-education benefits, for student and parents.
• Medical: Out of pocket medical and dental expenses for 2019 and 2020.
• Special Situation: Gather documentation for any changes to your financial situation in 2020 due to the COVID crisis or natural disasters, such as the California wildfires.
If you are filing through a mobile phone, check out the myStudentAid app for iOS and Android. If you are a CFAA client, keep me updated and provide copies of all information prior to our “submit” meeting. Once we have everything in place, we can usually file your student’s FAFSA via a Zoom meeting by sharing computer screens.
Once the FAFSA is accepted and reviewed you will be provided with a Student Aid Report which will include your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). This is the estimated amount your family will be expected to fund from savings, student loans, and scholarships.
If you have a larger EFC you might need to apply for more scholarships. The CFAA Scholarship Program helps you locate, organize and apply to personalized scholarship opportunities. Visit our website, and enter your name and email to receive a FREE COPY of “Top 5 Tips for a Successful Scholarship Search.”
It has been said that the early bird gets the worm. The early bird FAFSA filer has the best chance to maximize their financial aid amounts, so be sure you are ready to take action quickly. For the latest financial aid information, look for my weekly JustAskJodi emails and tune in for my weekly Twitter chat at #CollegeCash every Thursday at 5pm Pacific/8pm Eastern.