FEDERAL STUDENT AID. FAFSA
HOW TO COMPLETE YOUR FAFSA APPLICATION
Experts say the most important thing to remember when filling out your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is to be accurate with your information. It may sound simple, but many students have made basic paperwork errors that end up costing them thousands of dollars they could have used to further their education.
One way to ensure much of that basic information will be correct is to fill out your tax forms before filling out the FAFSA. Up to eighty percent of the information required by the FAFSA can be transferred electronically from information you’ve already provided to the IRS.
Stick to the FAFSA deadlines. If you miss the deadline all the money in the pool could well be gone before your application is processed.
The United Sates Department of Education continues to try to make the entire FAFSA process more user-friendly. To streamline the whole FAFSA process you can get a PIN number assigned to you for easier tracking.
Along with the electronic transfer of IRS information, redundant questions are being eliminated. It is hoped that this new effort to make the FAFSA easier to navigate will allow more students to receive more money.
Some students are enlisting free professional help in filling out their FAFSA. A recent study showed these students on average receive about thirty percent more money.
These professionals can offer advice on how to best work the system. For example, when you fill out the form don’t leave anything blank. If you have any doubt about a monetary figure, for instance, just put the number zero—otherwise your chance to receive the financial aid may be hurt.
Experts say that, while it is wonderful to meet the FAFSA deadline, it is even more important to be right with your information. If you can manage to mix accuracy with timeliness that is a winning combination.
Students who are accepted into several schools generally get more money. It is best on your FAFSA not to pigeonhole yourself into one school selection—you may be limiting your financial options. You should, they say, even include a local school if that is not already among your choices because you may just discover some attractive financial package you were not aware of.
Many students become confused on the part of the FAFSA that deals with savings accounts. They believe they are shooting themselves in the foot if they have saved money for college and report this on their FAFSA. But are they?
The best advice in this regard is to use your savings to pay down your debt. Being in debt does not compute with FAFSA so it it better to eliminate as much debt as possible—the smaller savings will help you in the eyes of the FAFSA.
Another option is to put your saved money in a 529 savings account. This is an account that is exclusively for education and it will not be counted as a regular savings account. It may just help you be eligible for more money as well.