So you (or your child) are applying to, or have been accepted at, a college. Perhaps you are already in school and looking forward to next year. Either way, you are now thinking about how you are going to pay for it. That means filling out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form. The best thing you can do is get right to it; don’t put it off!
Know Your Deadlines
The first thing you should do is check the school deadlines for the form, as the FAFSA is often used by the school as well as the U.S. Department of Education for determining aid.
Get more information about filling out the form in this video on Richardson Law Offices TV!
If you already know where you are attending (because you have been accepted or are going back for another year), then there is only one. But if you have not decided yet, then you need to keep your options open and have it ready for all of them.
File Your Taxes
Once you know your dates, and it is possible, try to file your tax return before you complete and file the FAFSA. If you are the student, and you are their dependent, be sure your parents have done so as well.
This is because the Department of Education has a tool whereby you can import income information from the IRS into the form electronically once it is available in their database (usually about two weeks from when you file).
If you need to submit the FAFSA before you file your return, you can estimate your income based on the previous tax year and then amend the form after you file the return.
Don't Put Off Doing It
Although you should try to wait until after your tax returns are filed, you should not procrastinate either. Many people put off filling it out because of all the myths they hear about the form that lead them to believe that it is a difficult, onerous process, or a futile one because they somehow won’t qualify.
Don’t believe it! The form can be filled out electronically, and takes, on average, less than 30 minutes to complete.
Take the Time to Do It Right
Finally, be complete and thorough when you do fill it out. Do not fall victim to some of the most common mistakes that people make when doing so. If you make one or more of these mistakes, it could lead to a delay in the processing of the form or a denial in aid. You went to the effort of filling it out; make sure you will have the best shot of being successful!
If you would like more information about student loans, you can dowload my free book, I Graduated; Now What? A Guide to Dealing with Your Student Loans.