Finding financial aid to send your child to college may seem like an overwhelming process. One of the most important steps you can take, though, in ensuring your child gets all of the help he or she deserves while trying to pay for college is to complete the FAFSA form during the senior year of high school. The FAFSA, or the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is one of the most important forms you will need to be familiar with before your child leaves for college. There are many types of aid your student can become eligible for simply by completing this form.
Understanding the basics of the FAFSA, though, is essential before you start this process.
Where Do I Begin?
One of the first things you should do before you begin to complete the FAFSA is to check the deadlines. The form is completed on a yearly basis, but most schools have differing deadlines, as aid is offered on a first-come, first-serve basis, and so getting the form completed on time is essential to the status of your student’s aid.
States also have FAFSA deadlines, so checking in to be sure you are meeting all applicable deadlines is necessary for successful receipt of aid.
Another important, though not completely necessary step in the FAFSA process is filing your income tax return. Completing the information needed for an income tax return will help you prepare the information needed to complete the FAFSA. While it is not required that an income tax return be prepared to finish the FAFSA form, you will have to have some fairly extensive income information to complete the form, so it will save you a bit of time if you do both together.
When you get ready to fill out the FAFSA, there are a couple of filing methods. It is important that you decide which one is right for you before you get started. Most high school counselor’s offices and college financial aid offices have paper versions of the FAFSA. Simply plug in your information, sign, and mail. This method usually takes four to six weeks of processing time before you receive a reply indicating how much aid you qualify for. You can also choose to file your FAFSA online. This method is much quicker and more accurate. As a result, the processing time with this method tends to only be two weeks. It is important to note, though, that some states require additional forms if you choose to file online. You can electronically sign your application with a PIN from the Department of Education. You can obtain your PIN before you begin the process from their website.
When you actually begin the application, be sure to read all of the instructions carefully. While many questions seem rather basic, many others may use terms you are wholly unfamiliar with. As a result, some critical reading and contacting the appropriate parties when you don’t have enough information to answer the question is one of the
most important steps you can take to complete the FAFSA correctly.
Completing the FAFSA is a substantial step you can take to ensure your child has enough aid to pay for college. Be prepared, and you will put your child on the path to enlightenment.