Filling out the FAFSA is a crucial part for most students’ financial aid packet. If filled out properly it can offer you everything you need to get through school. I have put together five tips that I think are especially important to consider when filling out the FAFSA.
First, it’s important to remember that the FAFSA is free. There are many sites out there that will try to charge to fill it out. Some will even offer help in exchange for help filling it out. None of those sites are necessary. To fill the FAFSA out for free go to the website FAFSA.ED.GOV.
Tip number two for filling out the FAFSA is to do it in a timely manner. You are able to start filling it out on January 1st of every year. If you wait until you and your parents get your tax returns back you will be making a huge mistake. Generally they give funds on a first come first serve basis. When you first fill it out you can enter estimates into the form. Once you get your tax return back you can go back to the website and make it accurate. An important thing to mention is to keep you and your parent’s pin numbers. You will need these numbers every year. I personally write mine down in multiple places so I won’t lose it. If you do lose it you’ll just be wasting time waiting to get a new one. Also, make sure it is complete and accurate. If it’s accurate, most information can carry over for the next year which means it’s easier to fill out.
Tip number three is not to mention any retirement assets or home equity on your form. They don’t care about this money. If you count it as income they will offer you less financial aid. They will ask you about second homes and real estate investments which you have to disclose. Also, make sure you don’t mention any household possessions as assets because that will shirk the amount of aid you receive.
The last tip for filling out the FAFSA is to make sure you choose wisely when deciding which parent’s tax information you use. In the ideal situation it would be the parent that makes the least amount of money. That being said, you are supposed to put down the parent that you live with the most throughout the year. You must enter your parent’s tax information until you are 24 years old (and that is by January 1st of the year in question) even if your parents don’t give you any aid. The exceptions to this rule are: if you are married, if you have a child, or if your parents are deceased.
If you receive a lot of financial aid most schools will do an audit on your taxes. That is why it’s important to give them everything they require while not offering up any extras.
For a recap here are the 4 tips:
1) Make sure it’s free
2) Fill it out ASAP
3) Don’t disclose things you consider assets but they don’t
4) Choose the right parent