You’ve been dreading this moment for years and now it’s here. It’s time to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, better known as the FAFSA. Without federal financial aid, many students can’t afford the cost of college, so you want to get this right. No pressure, Mom and Dad.
There are several mistakes parents make that you will want to avoid, so let’s review them:
1) Not applying at all: The FAFSA is intimidating, and some people think that they won’t be eligible for aid anyway, so why bother? Always apply for federal aid. Even people who make a significant income can qualify, so don’t throw away this chance for financial aid for college. Fill out the FAFSA.
2) Using the wrong parent’s income: Many people mistakenly think they must list the income of the higher earning parent in divorce situations. This is not true! Use the income for the parent whom the child lived with the most during the last year. If time was split evenly, use the income of the parent who provided the most support.
3) Including assets that aren’t required: You do not have to include the parents’ retirement accounts, life insurance plans, or the value of their primary home. These items can make it seem as if there is more money available to pay for college and can significantly reduce your aid, so do not include them in the assets listing!
4) Waiting too long to file: There is a strict filing deadline for the FAFSA and you don’t want to miss it. The FAFSA is complicated to fill out, so don’t wait until the last minute. Also, many state aid forms use information from the FAFSA and have earlier deadlines. You don’t want to miss out on those opportunities for student aid because you procrastinated in filling out the FAFSA.
Filling out the FAFSA correctly is essential, but difficult. Many parents seek the help of a college funding specialist to get you through the process. Experienced experts can help ensure that you get all the aid you are entitled to, while reducing your stress. Good ones can also help you find other creative ways to pay for college beyond the FAFSA.