It’s FAFSA time!
Recently, I was in a discussion about getting kids prepared for college and FAFSA filing, when I realized that I possessed a lot of information that others could use. I had already sent one of my own kids off to college, with my second child projected to go to college in 2017. I wondered if this might be somewhat off topic for my business blog. However, Mind Activation Code is not only about creating positive resources, but providing (or sharing) positive resources as well. I happen to think getting money for college is a positive thing. Can I get an “Amen”? It’s even better when the money comes in the form of grants or scholarships because that is money that does not have to be paid back. “Amen” again!
What is the FAFSA?
The FAFSA is the “Free Application for Federal Student Aid”. Note the “Free”. It does not cost you anything to complete the form. There are some businesses that will complete the FAFSA for you, for a sizable fee. Unless those businesses are also providing you with other useful services like interviewing skills, test taking prep, or what have you, there is no reason to pay for only completing the FAFSA. I think the process has been simplified so that it is very easy to complete. You can do it completely online or you can choose other options for filing, but online is the quickest.
Why should I file?
Well, by filling out a free form that gets distributed to the colleges you choose, those colleges can then consider you when they look at funds available for merit-based and/or need-based aid. That’s right, financial aid includes need-based aid (based on certain criteria like income, family circumstances, etc) and merit-based aid (due to academic or other achievements). Additionally, many organizations offering scholarships also require students to file the FAFSA in order to be considered.
If you are a high school senior or college student, you should be filing your FAFSA now if you have not done so. The FAFSA must be filed every year, that is for each college school year.
Where do I start?
Start by going to https://fafsa.ed.gov or just fafsa.gov, which will redirect to the first link I mentioned. The main thing to point out is that it is a “.gov” site not a “.com” or some other site. If you miss that, you could end up a business site looking to charge you to file the FAFSA. I think we already established that as unnecessary.
What do I need?
- FSA ID — You can create this username and password combination on the FAFSA site. This also allows you the option of signing your form electronically if you complete the form online.
- Tax return — Don’t worry if you have not completed your tax return yet for this past year. You can still get your FAFSA in early using estimated numbers such as the information from your previous tax return. You will need to login and do an update to your FAFSA once you have completed the current tax return. The sooner you can submit your initial FAFSA, the sooner you get in line. Updating does not send you to the back of the line.
Make sure you know the right deadlines.
For the FAFSA, there is a federal deadline, state deadline, and different schools have different deadlines as well. It is very important to make sure you are aware of which deadlines are approaching sooner. This is especially important if you are a high school senior. For example, if you are going to high school in Texas, you might be told you have until March 15th to get your FAFSA done. That is the state’s deadline. High Schools might start doing workshops on the FAFSA near the end of February or beginning of March because many people don’t have their taxes done yet anyways. I think many of the in-state schools carried the same deadline as the state, but that might not always be the case.
Pay attention if you are going out of state. The other important point here is that high schools tend to think locally and cover general information. If you have your sites on going out of state, you definitely need to check that college’s deadline for the FAFSA. State deadlines differ and the college deadlines tend to be close in line with their state. A number of states and schools have a March 1st deadline. So, if you were told a March 15th deadline because of where you live now, but you were planning to attend a school in a state with a March 1st deadline, you would be in a difficult spot if you waited until March 2nd only to find out you were too late.
The time for action is now!
The longer you wait, the more likely you are to miss a deadline. The longer you wait, the less aid will be offered, and possibly no aid will be offered.
May you be abundantly blessed with funds for college!
If you were helped by this post or are interested in more talk on preparing for college, let me know in the comment section.