If you are responsible for paying for your college education, then the first place you should begin when it comes to finding the funds is your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA, for short). The FAFSA must be filled out annually if you are to qualify for (or at least attempt to qualify for) financial aid every year, and it must be filled out correctly. Mistakes or oversights on your part can delay the process, or even earn you a negative reply. Do it right the first time around by following these five tips for completing your FAFSA forms:
Gather your documentation before you sit down to apply. While it’s not necessary that you apply in one sitting (you can always set aside the app – or save it – for later if you run into a road bump), the sooner you get your FAFSA in, the sooner you get results. That means that it’s a good idea to make sure you are prepared to fill out the form completely, before you even sit down to it. To read a comprehensive list of exactly what you’ll need to complete the FAFSA, visit the FAFSA website (www.fafsa.ed.gov).
Don’t leave anything blank. Not one thing. This can seriously delay your application, or even lead to its rejection. If you aren’t sure about how you should answer a question, save your application so that you can come back to it later, once you’ve gotten the information you need.
Use your complete legal name. The FAFSA asks you for your full name, and so you must list it as it appears on your social security card. Leaving out a part of your name (your middle name, for example), or listing a nickname in place of a real name, can delay the processing of your application. Additionally, be sure to include any alternate names you’ve ever gone by (married name, for example) in the space provided.
Parents and dependants. You are a dependant if you live with one of your parents (not necessarily the parent who has legal custody of you) for at least six months out the year. If this applies to you, then you must detail your parent’s (and that parent’s spouse’s) income. On the other hand, if you are the primary financial caregiver of someone else for six months or more out of the year, then that person is your dependant and you can claim that expense.
Your options. There is a space on the FAFSA where you will be asked about your interest in other forms of aid. Answer yes to all of them. This does not obligate you to anything, but it does present you with more financial aid options to consider.
Filling out the FAFSA does not have to be a stressful experience. Follow these tips to make the most of your FAFSA, so that you can get the funding you need, when you need it.
About the Author: Quinton Longobardi’s first son is headed off to college this fall. He’s spending his time learning about financial aid, searching for textbook price comparison guides, and praying they get a few scholarships!