It seems that college kids have just gone back to school and you already have to start thinking about next year. For those of you who currently have children in college or children that will be entering college next year, now is the time to start thinking about federal financial aid. As of October 1st you can now submit your free application for federal student aid (FAFSA). FAFSA is the form that is filed annually by current and prospective college students, both graduate and undergraduate, to determine their eligibility for federal student financial aid. Therefore, if you want to determine whether you’re eligible for not only federal student loans, but grants, work study or scholarships, you are going to need to complete the FAFSA form sooner than later, and for most people the sooner you do it the better. Although you have until June 30th to submit your FAFSA application, it is better to do it as soon as you can. Not only do many universities and colleges award financial aid on a first-come, first-served basis, but also by applying early, you’ll find out where you stand with regard to federal aid. Finding out where you stand when it comes to financial aid can be a great benefit for you because it can also help you to determine what college to attend.
Completing the FAFSA form is also easier than it has been in the past. Two years ago the rules changed, and you no longer have to use your information from your current tax return, you can use your previous tax return. For example, for the 2019/2020 school year you would use information from your 2017 tax return.
The first step for those of you who’ve never completed a FAFSA form is to get a FSA ID through the U.S. Department of Education. Also, this year you can now electronically transfer your tax return information into the FAFSA form. To find out more about completing the FAFSA application and getting a FSA ID, you can visit www.fafsa.ed.gov. There‘s a wealth of information on this site that can be of great assistance to you.
Also new this year is the U. S. Department of Education’s new app. The new app named “my-student-aid” app, is available from the Apple Store or from Google Play. This new app will allow you to complete your FAFSA form on your phone. Of course, it is important to make sure that you download the right app because like everything else, the scam artists are at work and they’ve already developed some lookalike apps. The “my-student-aid” app is free and completing your FAFSA form is also free. You know you’re dealing with a fake app if they are charging you money.
If you’re not sure if you should file a FAFSA form, my belief is that you should. First, many people think they do not qualify for federal assistance but by completing the form you may find that you are eligible. Income is a determining factor; however, it is not the only factor. For example, what also determines aid is the number of children in your family and how many of them are enrolled in college. Therefore, my recommendation is that the great majority of people should file a FAFSA form.
One question I’m always asked, and that is can the average person complete the FAFSA application themselves or should they hire a company to prepare them? I think the great majority of people can complete the FAFSA application on their own; however, the key is to take your time because accuracy is important. If you make a mistake it could delay the processing of your application.
The old adage, the early bird catches the worm, applies here. If you are or think you’re going to be in a situation where you need financial assistance for college next year, don’t delay, complete your FAFSA form as soon as possible.
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