It’s the beginning of a new FAFSA era, with the current application already online for the 2017-18 academic year. Don’t be caught by surprise, as this is a great departure from previous timelines. It is always best to file your FAFSA as early as possible to maximize your chances of obtaining all the financial aid to which you are entitled. It will even be a little easier this year, as you can automatically access financial information from your 2015 federal income tax return. Here are some tips to make sure you get it right:
• File, file, file! Many students and parents convince themselves they have very good reasons for not filing a FAFSA – it’s too hard, we earn too much, we earn too little, I don’t know which colleges I want to attend, college costs too much – but those are just excuses. You will never know how much financial aid you qualify for until you complete this application. Plus, you need it to be eligible for state financial aid, assistance from your colleges, some scholarships and even federal student loans. So sit down, learn about the FAFSA, create an FSA ID, log on, and get started. If you have questions, there is plenty of help available along the way.
• Don’t be misled: The only real website to find the FAFSA is at https://fafsa.gov/. Don’t be fooled by any other imitators. You do not have to pay anything to submit your financial aid application. You may choose to pay to have someone help you with it, or you might be charged application fees by the colleges you apply to, but there is no FAFSA fee.
• Use an FSA ID: This gives you electronic access to all of your federal student aid information, and also allows you to sign the FAFSA electronically. Both the student and the parents of a dependent student need an FSA ID. It might take a few days to complete this process, so apply now even if you are not ready to begin the FAFSA.
• Be careful: Check all deadlines to make sure you are in compliance with what your schools require. Take your time going through the FAFSA, and read the information that is supplied. They take you step-by-step through the process of determining whether you are a dependent student, and ascertaining who your parent is for FAFSA purposes. Double-check the information you provide before signing and submitting the form.
Get started on your next FAFSA by scheduling your free strategy session with College Financial Aid Advisors now!
Get more information on financial aid and the FAFSA in my book, Secrets of a Financial Aid Pro. It provides more details about preparing and submitting the FAFSA, reviews the entire financial aid timeline, educates readers on using debt wisely, and talks about good money habits to instill in children as they are growing up. Order it now, and start getting your student ready to apply to college and complete the FAFSA.