Trying to figure out how to pay for college will keep any parent up at night. Unfortunately, mistakes made while applying for financial aid could cost your child thousands of dollars in lost aid.
Consider the FAFSA (Free Application For Federal Student Aid). The FAFSA is your gateway to obtaining money to pay for college. While its intention is to determine eligibility for federal financial aid, many states and colleges use the FAFSA to determine how much financial assistance they will offer as well.
Unfortunately, procrastinating in completing the FAFSA can be particularly costly. This is because financial aid funds are often provided on a first-come, first served basis. States like Illinois, for instance, will make financial awards until state funds are depleted. Take too long to complete the FAFSA, and your state may not have financial aid left to offer your child.
In addition, many states and colleges have FAFSA filing deadlines that are earlier than the June 30th, 2018 (for school year 2017-2018) federal FAFSA filing deadline. Wait until the June 30th deadline approaches and you could miss the deadline to be considered for state or college financial aid.
Many families don’t complete the FAFSA because they believe they make too much money to qualify for financial aid. Don’t fall into this trap either. You never know how much aid you’ll qualify for unless you apply.
Furthermore, some colleges that offer academic scholarships will require you to apply for need-based aid first by completing a FAFSA form before your child is considered for academic-based scholarships.
It definitely pays to get started early. If you have all the right paperwork in front of you, the FAFSA should take about 30 minutes to fill out.
This year, you can submit the 2017-2018 FAFSA even earlier. The opportunity to begin filing the FAFSA was moved back to October 1, 2016—three months earlier than the traditional start date of January 1st.
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Be aware of this important change. The 2017-2018 FAFSA will use information from your 2015 tax year, rather than the 2016 tax year. With just a few clicks, the FAFSA’s IRS data retrieval tool allows you to import tax information directly from your federal income tax return into the FAFSA, saving you time and effort.
To help you with completing the FAFSA, take advantage of these resources:
The FAFSA Lady
Run by certified financial aid consultant Alana Mbanza, the FAFSA Lady website is all things FAFSA. The website even allows you to download a free 2017-2018 FAFSA cheat sheet to help you avoid making common FAFSA mistakes.
This features comprehensive information about financial aid and the FAFSA. Here you can also download the free ebook: Filing the FAFSA, which walks you step-by-step through the FAFSA process.
FAFSA on the Web
This is the official federal website, where you can complete the FAFSA.
Remember, the early bird gets the worm. Don’t lose out on precious financial aid dollars. File your FAFSA today.
BMWK, do you have any other tips to save for your child’s college years?