Friday, January 13, 2012

Don't fear the FAFSA!

Remember last week when I implored you to fill out the FAFSA? Yes, even if you think you won't qualify. (There's no ceiling for income and besides, it's not the only factor. It's much more complicated than that.) And yes, sooner rather than later. There are a lot of myths and questions out there about the FAFSA and federal aid in general, and understandably so. For a great Q&A series that will probably answer your questions, check out this New York Times blog feature, with Mark Kantrowitz, the founder of (Here's another FAQ, courtesy of the US Department of Education.)

Still need convincing? Here's 4 reasons:

1. A lot of colleges award aid on a first-come, first-served basis. When it's gone, it's gone.

2. You can use estimated income amounts if you haven't filed your taxes or received paperwork yet. You can always go back and make corrections.

3. You might miss out on state aid deadlines, many of which require the FAFSA.

4. If you don't ask, you'll never know.

So now you're ready! I love making lists, so I'll leave you with one last thing-- a checklist, courtesy of These are the materials needed to sit down and fill out the FAFSA. Round them up and get to it! 

  1. Student's Social Security number 
  2. Parents’ Social Security numbers (if providing parent information*) 
  3. Student's driver’s license number (if you have one) 
  4. Student's Alien Registration Number (if you are not a U.S. citizen) 
  5. Student's Federal tax information or tax returns including IRS W-2 information, for you (and spouse, if the student is married, and for parents if providing parent information). If you have not yet filed an income tax return, complete and submit the FAFSA using estimated tax information. (Use income records for the year prior to the academic year for which you are applying: for instance, if you are filling out the 2011–12 FAFSA, you will need 2010 tax information.) 
  6. Records of your untaxed income, such as child support received, interest income, and veterans non-education benefits, for students, and for parents if providing parent information. 
  7. Information on cash; savings and checking account balances; investments, including real estate but not including the home in which you live; and business and farm assets for the student, and parents if providing parent information. 
*Not sure whether you will need to put your parents’ information on the FAFSA? Check out “Am I Dependent or Independent?” at or call 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243).

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