We're sure you can think of much better ways to spend a Saturday morning than filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. (Organizing your sock drawer comes to mind!) But neglecting to apply for financial aid can cost you big time. In fact, a recent study found that there are currently 850,000 students in college who qualify for federal grants. Yet none of these students have received a dime from the government. The reason? They didn't apply. So vow not to leave any money on the table and make sure that you complete the FAFSA!
If you are one of the millions of families that wait until April to start figuring out your taxes, it's time to change your ways—at least while your child is in college. The reason is simple: You'll need some of the numbers from your tax return to fill out the FAFSA. If your taxes aren't done when you start working on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, you'll have to use estimates and update them later (causing you to do some of the calculations twice and eating up even more of your valuable time). If your taxes are done, you'll have the numbers you need.
When should you turn in the FAFSA? The soonest that you may submit the FAFSA is January 1st of your child's senior year in high school because the FAFSA requires tax information from the previous year. Every college sets its own deadline for the FAFSA. The key is to find the earliest deadlines for the schools to which your child is applying. Colleges often list their deadlines in the application forms. If your child's application arrives after the deadline, there may not be any funding left, even if your family deserves it.
As a diligent parent who plans to do taxes early and submit the FAFSA as soon as possible after January 1st, you might find yourself in a slight dilemma: You can't do taxes until you receive your W-2s, and some employers do not send them out until weeks after the end of the year. Tell your employer that you need a copy of your W-2 as soon as possible to file for financial aid. Or use your final paycheck stub from the previous year—it probably lists your cumulative earnings for the year along with taxes paid. Don't be delayed by a late W-2.
Gen and Kelly Tanabe
Founders of SuperCollege and authors of 13 books on college planning.
By: Gen & Kelly Tanabe
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By: Gen & Kelly Tanabe
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