4 Tips for Completing the FAFSA
It is the time of year that college-bound students and families start to look beyond what school they may attend to what the financial aspect of the investment will look like.
All students requesting financial assistance from institutions of higher learning must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to begin the process of determining how much aid specific colleges can offer the incoming student. A paper version of the form is usually available in any high school guidance counselor or local college financial aid office. However, most current applicants submit the FAFSA online.
Provide an accurate household size. This figure is often mistakenly submitted on the application as families have confusion on who qualifies as an actual member of the household. It has nothing to do with relation, but pertains to anyone two which the student’s parents (or the actual student) provide more than half of their financial support. This can be siblings or other family members (possibly elderly) that spend part of their time away but still are supported over 50% by the household.
Choose the right parent. Those students with divorced parents face additional confusion when completing the FAFSA. The regulations dictate that the students submit financial information for the parent (and any new spouse) that provides over 50% of support to the student. It does not matter which parent claims the child on their tax return or who has greater court-determined custody.
Proofread for accuracy. Numerical errors and misunderstanding the instructions are very common mistakes that can delay or greatly alter the ease of the application process. The line that produces a great deal of mistaken answers is the question regarding income tax. This is not Adjusted Gross Income or the amount of taxes withheld. It is the number of tax owed, which is only found on IRS Form 1040 (line 55), 1040A (line 35) or 1040EZ (line 11). It is also important to make sure any names listed are full names that appear on the person’s U. S. Social Security card.
Stating Actual Wealth. Application answers are to be stated as they are on the day the form is signed. Therefore, if there are major financial situations on the horizon consider how they will affect potential financial aid eligibility. Pay any large up-coming expenses or submit the form before any anticipated large monetary or real estate gifts.