(Free Application for Federal Student Aid)
If completing the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is on your “To Do” list this January, chances are you are dreading what could be the arduous task of assimilating all of the data and information necessary to complete the paperwork. The feeling is a close second to how we sometimes feel when we have to get organized to complete our federal and state tax returns.
Here are some of the documents you will want to have at the ready as you begin completing the application. Basic information such as Social Security numbers and driver’s license numbers are easy to come by. What becomes problematic for many applicants, however, is awaiting their W-2, 1099s, and other financial information from banks and investment companies that are sometimes not mailed until late January or even in February. For some investment products, the mail date for 1099s could be much later.
We recommend keeping copies of your end-of-year pay stub and investment statements in a folder specifically for completing the FAFSA. Much of the information you need can be found on your last pay stub as well as the fourth quarter investment statements or December 31st brokerage statements.
If you receive income in the form of child support that is untaxed, that information is also required on the FAFSA.
According to The Department of Education, most dependent undergrads regardless of family income, will qualify for at least some form of Stafford loan eligibility over four years. So, even if you feel you may not qualify, it is good to at least apply. Not applying could also result in your son or daughter not being considered for other grants or scholarships they may become eligible for after their Freshman Year.
Assets held in the student’s name are considered in FAFSA calculations. Utilizing assets that children have accumulated for their freshman year may help to alleviate the aid thresholds imposed on student assets. Additionally, moving assets from the child’s name, perhaps to a 529 plan in the parent’s name, could also help with maximizing the aid threshold for the student.
It is important to complete the FAFSA as early as possible as in some states aid is awarded on a first-come, first served basis. If you need to use estimates for income, you will be able to update the form with the correct information later.
Most importantly, be sure to fill out the form completely. Do not leave fields blank that you feel do not apply to you. Always read the instructions and write a “0” in the form if there is no applicable data for that field.
If you receive a disappointing aid package, there is an appeals process. For example, perhaps there are extenuating circumstances to your family situation that are unable to be clearly stated in the application. There are over 100 questions on the application, but not much room to elaborate. So, if there has been a health issue, job loss, or other circumstance that you feel is applicable to the evaluation of your application, either include a cover letter with the application or appeal if there is a disappointing package awarded to you.
Feel free to be in touch with us if we can be of any assistance as you begin the FAFSA or college application process.