Should Everyone With Children in College Fill Out The FAFSA?
Even though you can afford to cover the cost of college tuition, it may make sense for your family to fill out the FAFSA. Find out why.
Q: What is the FAFSA?
A: The Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA for short, is a form that students or their parents complete to determine what amount of federal student aid they may be eligible for based on a variety of factors. Net worth, income and demographic information are just a few of the data points collected on the form to provide a rough estimate of what would be an eligible amount for the student to receive. Although the actual form is over 100 questions, an online version of the form can be completed in much less time. While federal loans and grants require the FAFSA to be completed before being awarded, many colleges and universities also use the FAFSA as a basic requirement for determining whether an individual is eligible to receive grants or scholarships and to define what those amounts may be.
Q: My spouse and I have a relatively high income, why should we complete the FAFSA Form?
A: When it comes to the FAFSA, it’s not uncommon for high-income earners who won’t need loans for their children to view the form as an inconvenience at the very least or an intrusion into private information at the very worst. Many of the questions on the form are detailed and inquire into financial matters such as investment account values and incomes of both children and parents. The benefit to completing that information, however, is that many universities use FAFSA responses as a way to sort through the multitude of applicants they receive and what amounts of financial aid those individuals may qualify for. By failing to complete the form, students may be inadvertently removing themselves from various scholarships and grants at specific universities, so it’s important to weigh the trade-off between privacy and potentially saving thousands on educational costs.
Q: What should I know or have with me prior to completing the form?
A: Having a tax return for the last two years for both you and your child will help expedite the process of completing the form. You will also want to have recent statements or online access to all of your and investment accounts, as well as your child’s accounts. Aside from actual materials, you may want to employ a number of strategies to help maximize your chances of receiving aid prior to actually completing the form. Some of those strategies may take a few weeks to implement. For example, it’s generally more advantageous to keep assets in the name of a parent when a child is applying to college, as opposed to in the name of a student. With a myriad of other opportunities to maximize your FAFSA application, it’s definitely worth your time to consult with someone who has experience working with individuals in your position to determine if some of those strategies make sense for your situation.
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