Autumn is the time of year when we think about the need to start raking leaves, watching baseball playoffs, and getting kids back in the school routine. If you’re the parent of a college-bound high school senior, you should also be thinking about sitting down to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, the FAFSA. Let’s look at several frequently mentioned misconceptions about the FAFSA.
It’s a pain to fill out and takes a lot of time. It typically takes less than an hour to complete the application the first time you do it online at https://fafsa.ed.gov. Your initial inputs are stored for future years, saving time in the future. You’ll need some documents handy when you are ready to begin including Social Security numbers, tax returns for the prior-prior tax year (in 2019, you’ll need the 2017 tax return), bank statements, records of non-retirement investments, and records of untaxed income (veteran’s benefits, child support, etc.).
I make too much to qualify for need-based aid. That may be true, but the FAFSA is also used to provide other awards, such as school-based scholarships and state government aid. You’ll never know what college funding sources were left on the table if you don’t apply.
I’ll do it later, once I know which college(s) to list. The FAFSA can be submitted as early as October 1. Some schools award aid on a first-come, first-served basis, so the sooner you apply, the better your chances. You can list up to 10 schools, so cast a wide net! You can always edit your list later by logging into your FAFSA account. Once you’ve submitted the FAFSA, you’ll receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) within about 3 weeks. The SAR will give you an idea of how much aid you’ll likely receive, which can help you determine which school will best meet your needs, both academically and financially.
As most parents are painfully aware, college expenses have been outpacing income growth for many years. Even if you don’t think you’ll qualify for aid, it’s worth taking an hour to file the FAFSA, as it could save thousands in tuition costs. For a tutorial in filling out the application, visit www.edvisors.com/fafsa/forms/tutorial/