How to Ace the FAFSA

>> News Listing

Dec 01, 2017

By Paula Rogers, CPA President and Partner at Terry Lockridge & Dunn

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a tool that students use to apply for more than $120 billion in federal funds. Unfortunately, each year many students miss out. A report from NerdWallet estimates that $1,861 per eligible high school graduate went unused in free federal grant money during 2014 because they did not complete a FAFSA.

Even if you do not think you or your child qualify for federal aid, filling out a FAFSA is important because it could be used to determine eligibility for nonfederal aid and private funds.

FAFSA available October 1, 2017. Previously, the FAFSA was not available until January. A recent change now makes the application available October 1, 2017. This is because the 2018-19 FAFSA can be completed with your 2016 tax information.

Avoid FAFSA mistakes. Do not forgo federal student aid by making one of the following common filing mistakes - not reading the instructions or questions.

Here are some quick tips when filling out the FAFSA:

* Answer all questions - even if the answer is zero. If left blank, the question will be considered unanswered.

* Write dollar amounts without cents.

* Understand the definitions of key FAFSA language including: legal guardianship, parent and household size.

* "You" and "Your" refer to the student, not the parents.

* Provide parent information if you or your child is considered a dependent student.

* Use the available resources, FAQs and FAFSA Information Center.

* Complete the FAFSA online. Although you can complete the FAFSA on paper, it takes only 3-5 days to process when submitted electronically. The online version has built-in safeguards that identify and prevent many errors. Plus, the IRS Data Retrieval Tool can import information directly from your tax return. Logging in with a Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID will automatically load basic information (e.g., name, DOB, Social Security number), reducing the likelihood of typos. You even receive confirmation of receipt once you submit your online application.

* Note the earlier FAFSA filing date and get the application submitted as soon as possible. The sooner you or your child gets started, the higher the likelihood of being awarded funds since many are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis.

Remember, students need to complete a FAFSA each year because eligibility does not carry over and can vary based on circumstances. Students can use the FAFSA Web Worksheet now to gather and organize the data needed for their application. Please contact Paula Rogers at to discuss your situation.