Seniors: Can You Believe it is January Already? It’s FAFSA Time.
Now is the time to start filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, more commonly known as FAFSA. ** ALL** high school seniors and their parents should be filling the FAFSA out. It’s a pain well worth it. Many parents who thought they earned too much to qualify have been happily surprised by financial aid.
And, starting this year, all students who wish to receive Bright Futures dollars also need to fill out the FAFSA form. For more information on Bright Futures, please click here.
Some advice when filing for financial aid:
Fill out the FAFSA ASAP
Although the FAFSA deadline for the 2013-14 academic year is not until June 30, 2014, a desired college’s deadline may be sooner. Chances of collecting the maximum amount of FAFSA financial aid diminish as more time goes by. Many schools work on a first come, first serve basis when it comes to financial aid.
Finish Taxes Early
Most of the information FAFSA requires comes directly from a family’s tax returns. If the returns can’t be completed for whatever reason before some schools’ February deadline, parents are advised to use last year’s information to estimate their earnings. FAFSA will accept the information as long as it’s realistic. The FAFSA information can be updated later.
Do Not Report Retirement Assets
Do not include retirement assessments on the FAFSA. This can only ruin a child’s chances of receiving financial aid. The form does not ask about assets from 401(k) plans, Individual Retirement Account or 403(b) plans-only non-retirement assets. Give them what they ask for and no more.
Report Any Unusual Information
Higher Ed institutions and the government understand that financial situations can unexpectedly change. Because of that, families have the ability to appeal to a college to adjust their financial aid after submitting the FAFSA. This means if a parent is laid off or facing an expensive medical bill, it should be reported. If earnings reported on a tax return will likely not recur the following year, also make sure the college’s financial aid office knows this. Unexpected money may include a rare bonus or winnings from a game show.
Don’t Inflate Education
Rumors are that some schools will give applicants extra credit if they are considered “first-generation college students.” Optimistically, parents who never graduated from college should select “high school” as their highest education qualification.
Make Sure the Right Person Fills Out the Right Information
If parents are divorced or separated, the right parent needs to fill out the financial aid form. The parent responsible for filling out the form is the one a student has lived with for the majority of the year, even if the other parent is the legal custodial guardian.
Check and Double Check Check Everything
Make absolutely, positively sure no answers were left blank or lines left unsigned. Make sure everything is spelled correctly and numbers are accurate. Check and double check the FAFSA before it’s submitted. Errors will slow the FAFSA process and lower the aid.
For more tips on completing the form, find additional information on the FAFSA Help site.
This year, college advisors at International College Counselors helped more than 200 students find, apply to and gain acceptance into the college of their dreams. The expert college counselors at International College Counselors are dedicated to helping students and their families successfully navigate the college application process.
International College Counselors provides expert college counseling on undergraduate and graduate college admissions, financial aid, tuition, essays, and college applications to U.S. and international students. The college counseling and college coaching services are tailored to address the goals, needs, and dreams of each student. International College Counselors has offices in New York, New York; White Plains, New York; Boston, Massachusetts; Miami Beach, Florida; Miami, Florida; Coral Gables, Florida; Hollywood, Florida; Palm Beach, Florida; Boca Raton, Florida; Medellin, Colombia and Caracas, Venezuela.
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