The good news is your child is applying to college--congratulations! The bad news is you have to fill out FAFSA (the Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Every student and their parents seem to dread this, but let’s see if we can help make it easier for both of you.
Here are a few tips:
This federal government program awards students $125 billion in student aid each year. From grants and loans to work-study, this is free money for your child’s college education.
Filling out the FAFSA can take about an hour. Preparing beforehand can really help reduce the time it takes to complete the form. Instead of dreading the process, try thinking of this as an exciting step for both you and your child.
What you need:
According to College Xpress, here is a list of what you’ll need to complete your form.
Here’s the list:
- Most recent tax return forms (1040 etc), W-2s, and other records of income earned*
- Current statements from bank accounts, including checking and savings
- Current statements for any investments such as stocks or mutual funds, if applicable
- Records of untaxed income, if applicable
- Records of assets, from farm properties to investment real estate, if applicable
- Social Security number (or alien registration number if a non-citizen)
- Drivers license, if applicable
- FSA ID number (more on that below!)
Go to studentaid.gov to begin. You’ll need to create an FSA ID and account. This is the ID used to access your financial aid information when you repay any loans. Be sure to write this ID down and keep it safe. It is very difficult to look up your FASFA ID again and this is a must-have to apply. Parents also need to create their own FSA ID.
You and your student will be working on this document together, so create a save key, which is a short-term password, which allows you to pause during the application process and return to it later (you can actually save the form for 45 days, but we suggest, just trying to power through, as aid is first come, first serve).
Read and re-read your answers. Mistakes can mean a delay in getting aid, so be sure to proof, proof, proof. Accuracy is extremely important. Lying, even accidently on your FASFA is against the law and punishable.
The FAFSA site has an introduction page to help you throughout the process, but if you still feel as though you need help or support, call your student’s high school guidance counselor, who should be well educated on this form.
College costs keep rising, and there’s nobody who wouldn’t appreciate some financial help, so make sure to fill out FAFSA. Happy FASFA-ing!
* Rather than grab these papers, you may be able to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to enter the relevant figures automatically.