As January ends and those final W-2’s and other tax documents come trickling in, tax season 2012 is well underway. After completing this year’s 1040’s and the like, all are encouraged to complete their Free Applications for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) if they haven’t already done so. I’ve filed more than my fair share of FAFSA Forms so I’m here with some information that will hopefully help you navigate the process. If you have a question about something not covered here, feel free to shoot me an email at Tykeia@TheGlamNERDs.com.
This list is not in any specific order. I didn't want to list this informaiton in any particular way because all of it is of equal importance. Please read the list below and share it with others. Happy FAFSA Filing!
1. File Electronically- Completing FAFSA forms online is much quicker and faster than filling out traditional paper applications and mailing them in. Electronic forms also provide checklists and editing programming that are useful in ensuring you have completed your FAFSA thoroughly and correctly.
2. Print Your Name- Be sure you print your name exactly as it appears on your social security numbers and birth certificates. Include all middle initials and suffixes (Jr. II.) as well. Incorporating aliases and/or nicknames is not acceptable and can lead to issues of mistaken identity and misappropriated aid. Addressing mistakes delays the processing of your application that could seriously impact the amount of aid you could receive.
3. They Are Talking to YOU- Remember, anytime the FAFSA refers to “you” or “your” they are talking about you the student and not your parents or guardians.
4. Include Yourself- When asked to report the number members of your household presently enrolled in college/graduate school be sure to include yourself.
5. File Your Taxes First- It’s best to file your FAFSA early but after you’ve completed your taxes from the previous year. Filing early does increase your chances for receiving as much aid as possible however filing your FAFSA without your most recent tax information (1040 form) puts you at risk for making an error. Making corrections and/or submitting adjustments to your FAFSA prolongs/complicates the processing of your federal aid application which, could impact the amount of aid you receive. .
6. Take Your Time- Another reason it’s best to file as early as possible is to ensure there is ample time to complete your FAFSA forms, carefully. This is not something you want to rush through. Read questions very carefully and proofread your response to ensure they are correct. Mistakes made on the FAFSA form are very undo. Remember any delay in processing your paperwork could impact the amount of aid you receive.
7. Don’t Leave Anything Blank- I’ve heard many colleagues say that when filing the FAFSA “ 0 is the biggest number”. If there is a financial question that you actual numerical amount to report, respond with zero. Do not leave that question blank. Remember your financial information is being entered into a formula designed to determing the level of your financial lead. A blank question, disrupts that formula and confuses the computer system.
8. What is a dependent? - Many students who are parents automatically claim their child as a dependent. You will be asked to provide documentation confirming that information. According to the federal government and the good folks that process your FAFSA a dependent is a person for whom you continually provide more than half of their support. Support is defined as housing, money, food, clothing, medical and dental benefits, gifts, etc. The child would be a considered a dependent of your parent. If you pay court ordered child support and have documentation that proves that you provide more than half of the support and living expenses for that child, you can pay claim that child as a dependent. Also, please be advised, if you are a parent that lives at home with your parent/parents who supports both you and your child, you are not to claim that child as a your dependent.
9. File ASAPTUALLY- I know that I’ve already said this but it bears repeating. File your FAFSA as soon as you can. Aid is disbursed in large lump sums and students across the country are all vying for the same pot of gold. It’s first come, first serve. The longer you wait the smaller the pot gets thereby decreasing your chances of receiving grant and scholarship aid you qualify for.
Last but certainly not least,
10. FAFSA’S For Everybody- Many students and families don’t file the FAFSA because they feel they won’t be eligible for any scholarships and/or grants aid. BIG MISTAKE. The FAFSA is a universal form for all types of student aid. You may not qualify for federal government money but many state and local governments provide families with educational aid. Also most colleges and universities rely on the FAFSA to distribute institutional aid. Many private funding sources and foundations that distribute scholarship require students complete the FAFSA. Failing to file your FAFSA could be blocking a blessing. Keep all your options open. Also, even if you are not eligible for scholarships all students qualify for Stafford subsidized loans. These loans are the best student loans available as they government pays your interest. Besides it’s the FREE application for Federal Student Aid. You don’t have anything to lose in filing so why not go ahead and file.