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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Prepare for Your FAFSA Filing Now

Parents of current high school seniors entering college in the fall, as well as parents of college students who will still be in college next fall, should gather the necessary documents in the coming week to prepare for filing the FAFSA on or about January 1.

Never heard of this form with the strange acronym? Put simply, FAFSA is the Free Application for Student Financial Aid. This is the form all families should complete to see if they qualify for federal aid (and with the high cost of tuition these days, many wealthy families DO qualify). This is also the mechanism for getting student and parent loans, as well as some college scholarships. If you're still not convinced that you need to complete the FAFSA, please take a moment and check out these common myths concerning federal financial aid.
While you can't complete and submit the form until after January 1, you can make your job easier then by gathering this information now:
  • Social security number for parent(s) and student.
  • Driver’s license number for student.
  • Tax forms for parent(s) and student  (you can use estimated figures now and adjust them later).
  • Records of untaxed income, such as payments to tax-deferred savings plan for you and your child
  • Current bank statements for parent(s) and student.
  • Information about any business that parent(s) or student owns, as well as  investment mortgage information, business and/or farm records, and any stock, bond and other investment records
  • A list of colleges and universities (up to 10) to receive your FAFSA information
You and your student should also apply for a Personal Identification Number (PIN), which will allow you to sign the FAFSA electronically and to access a number of federal financial aid websites. Do this now because if there are any errors in a name or date of birth at the Social Security Administration, a PIN can't be issued until those errors are corrected. In the coming months, there will be a move away from the PIN to a more secure system with a user name and password. For this season, though, the PIN is still needed.

Remember, you do need to complete a FASFA each year of college, although it's easier after the first time. There are some first-come, first-served aid programs, which is why you want to submit your FAFSA as close to January 1 as possible. Here's a link to a downloadable book, Filing the FAFSA, that you may find helpful, especially if this is your first time filing or if you have special circumstances.