Time for parents and students to get started on their college application process. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for the 2018-2019 academic year is available to complete and submit as of October 1, 2017. All college-bound students should file the FAFSA. It is required not only to determine whether a family qualifies for financial aid, but to apply for federal student loans and to obtain merit-based scholarships.
- Getting started on the FAFSA application is preferred for several reasons:
- The form is long; therefore, getting organized and starting earlier should help make the overall application process go smoothly.
- Different states and colleges have different FAFSA deadlines.
- More importantly, some states and colleges may give out limited award money or they may award money on a first-come, first-served basis.
- Parents and students will need to create a Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID to electronically sign the application. Additionally, gather your 2016 tax return information and current bank statements before you begin to fill out the FAFSA. The application process should take an hour or less if you gather the required documents ahead of time.
- For security purposes, be sure to go directly to the FSA and FAFSA websites (fsaid.ed.gov and fafsa.ed.gov) rather than using a link from another website or an untrusted email.
- You have the option of using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, which pulls income tax data directly from the IRS. However, please note that due to security concerns, data is encrypted and only the school will be able to see the numbers. Also note that although tax information will be hidden from applicants, families will know their estimated family contribution (EFC) and other information, such as grant eligibility upon FAFSA submission.
- If you have a unique situation on your 2016 tax return or if your marital status has changed, you may need to take additional action. Additionally, there are a few situations in which parents or students are ineligible to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. These situations are listed on the FAFSA website.
- You may submit the FAFSA even if you are unsure of all the colleges your child would like to attend. If your child changes their mind or they decide to add another school later in the process, the FAFSA can be edited later to reflect the change. It is better to submit your FAFSA earlier than to delay your application pending college choices.
- Know your deadlines so you can ensure that you are weighing all your options and that you don’t miss any key dates. Some colleges will respond quicker than others; therefore, you should know how much time you have to evaluate each option before making a decision.
The transition of your child going to college is an important one and can be emotional for families in and of itself. Getting ahead of the FAFSA and college application process will give you more time, and hopefully less stress, to make an informed decision.
CCMI provides personalized fee-only financial planning and investment management services to business owners, professionals, individuals and families in San Diego and throughout the country. CCMI has a team of CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM professionals who act as fiduciaries, which means our clients’ interests always come first.
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