By Sarah Hoffbeck
Now that January is upon us, it’s time to start sorting through those receipts for tax season and filling out the oh-so-fun FAFSA if you have a college-aged son or daughter.
Never heard of the FAFSA? FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid and is basically a form you fill out to see if your student qualifies for federal college loans and/or grants.
The office of Federal Student Aid provides grants, loans and work-study funds for college and offers more than $150 billion each year to help millions of students pay for higher education. Processing over 22 million FAFSA submissions a year, the office of Federal Student Aid, which is a part of the U.S. Department of Education, is the largest provider of student financial aid in the United States.
January 1 is traditionally the first day you can file a FAFSA, so the sooner you can get to it, the better. The FAFSA can be found online where you can securely complete the filing process. And even if you filed the FAFSA last year, you must refile this year and update all information about income and assets for both the parent(s) and student.
Tips & Tricks of the Trade
- Don’t wait for your tax returns to file the FAFSA. While you may think that you have plenty of time after April 15 to file the FAFSA, the truth is that most colleges and many scholarships and grants have far earlier deadlines. The longer you wait, the less money your son or daughter may receive. If you start the process now, use the ‘Will File’ option on line 79 to estimate your income figures—then go back and revise the form when your tax returns are finished.
- Get organized! Staying organized is probably the hardest part of completing the FAFSA process. As a parent, not only do you need your own information in order (income and assets), but also your student’s information. And for children of divorced parents, this can often be a challenge. But the sooner you start, the sooner you finish, and hopefully the more aid you’ll receive.
- Find out what information you need ahead of time. Download the FAFSA worksheet before you begin filling out the FAFSA. This worksheet spells out important information about completing the FAFSA online, including how to create a PIN to access your FAFSA.
Complete Your FAFSA Today!
While it’s true that filling out the FAFSA may be a bit time-consuming, it could be time well spent. Check out this video to learn how to complete your FAFSA today: