If you, or your child, is in college, or entering college in the Fall of 2017, then you should know that the application process for financial aid has just gotten easier. Whereas before you had to wait until January 1 to start filling out the FAFSA form (Free Application for Federal Financial Aid), now you can start on October 1.
Why is this better, you may ask? My child hasn't chosen a school yet, let alone been accepted. This is way too early! Actually, no it isn't. Now is the time to lay the groundwork for you (or your child's) college journey, and doing it now makes it easier for two reasons:
It Helps You Choose an Affordable School
You may not know what college you or your child is attending, but wouldn't it be nice to know if you can afford it? The FAFSA application process allows you to see what kind of aid you would qualify for from the U.S. Department of Education. You can then compare this to what you may have in a college fund and see what other aid you might need.
The Student Aid Report (SAR) you get in response to the application can also be used in discussions with prospective schools to see what kind of aid they might be able to provide. Tha FAFSA form, and the information it produces, are also used by college financial aid offices to make offers of their own.
It Makes Providing Income Information Easier
You have to provide income information from the previous tax year in the FAFSA form. If you are doing it in January or February, and you have not filed your tax returns yet, then you would have to estimate income and amend the form later after you file your taxes. Now, you can fill it out in the Fall, dust off that tax return from last year, and use that!
Also, if you or your child attended school in the 2015-2016 term, and you are applying for 2016-2017, you can use the same income info and use last year's SAR as a guide to how much aid you might get! That trick only works this year, but it can be helpful!
So get going on that form! If you are starting college next year, but have not chosen a school, you can always add more schools later, so that the SAR will be sent to them as well.
If you are looking for more information about federal financial aid for college, then download my free book, Applying for Federal Financial Aid: The Definitive Guide for Students and Parents.
For more information about what happens after you graduate, get my free book, I Graduated; Now What? A Guide to Dealing with Your Student Loans.
You can also access the latest news on student loans, get answers to Frequently Asked Questions, and read articles in my Library. Continue to educate yourself as you go through the process of making smart decisions about college financing!