January is the time to submit your FAFSA form. FAFSA is an acronym for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Depending on which study you review, as many as 70%-90% of all FAFSA have errors that cost families thousands of dollars in aid. Go to the FAFSA website www.fafsa.ed.gov/ You can print out a worksheet and then submit your information online.
The biggest mistake families make is not turning in the form at all. Some families assume they make too much money to get aid. Income is only one of 7 factors used to determine financial eligibility. The other 6 are: parental assets, student income, student assets, age of parents, number of members in the household, number of college students in the household.
To maximize the amount of aid, submit the form as soon as possible, January 1. Colleges expect you to submit an estimate and then make any adjustments to the numbers once your income taxes are complete. A portion of federal financial aid is distributed on a first-come, first-served basis, so waiting can cost you money.
Other common errors to avoid:
- Choosing the wrong form. Select the 2011-2012 form.
- Don’t leave field blank, put in a zero.
- If the form asks you if you are interested in different forms of financial aid, answer “Yes.” A “Yes” does not obligate you to take the aid.
- The FAFSA is written for the student to submit so You and Your means the student, not the parents.
- Each family has a unique PIN number. Don’t forget to put that PIN on your form.
- Be sure to list only the assets requested and don’t list assets twice, such as 529 plans. Don’t put that in the student and parent sections.
If parents are divorced and sharing custody of the student, the determination of whose parental income and assets to use on the FAFSA is crucial. The household is where the student spends the majority of their time. If the household has a step-parent, their income and assets must be included on the form, regardless of their involvement in supporting the student.
Don’t assume your CPA can fill out the form properly. Be sure to ask if they are comfortable filling it out.
When filling in the income section, you must include any monies you are contributing pre-tax retirement plans.
We are here to help you. Call us with any questions. 630-907-9830.