FAFSA HINTS for Parents

by Nita
(Deltona, FL)

FAFSA HINTS for Parents - No one told me eighteen years ago that I would need a training manual to begin the financial aid process to send my precious bundle of joy to college. After several ill-fated attempts to start this journey at the "log-in" page of both the GA411 and the FAFSA website , I resorted to calling several 1-800 numbers! Thank goodness for patient tech support!

If I were to advise a newbie parent in this exciting process, I would encourage that they keep good records and keep them in one central location before ever beginning this process. I learned the hard way that I would need our family's tax documentation from the previous year, my son's social security number, his driver's license number, his username and password, which, unbeknownst to me he created himself at school. I later had to retrieve it from his guidance counselor, since HE didn't remember it! . Gathering this information ahead of time would have saved me multiple stops and starts. This will definitely be an improvement I will make to my experience this coming year!

For those who may be facing job and income changes during this wavering economy, I have a bit of encouragement. After we filed the FAFSA Application in the early part of the year, I was laid off at work. Our family's annual income was drastically reduced. Thankfully, the college financial aid counselor had the wisdom to know that a FAFSA could be re-filed with more current income numbers. Although we ran things right up to the wire with date deadlines, our son received a much larger Pell Grant award , reflecting these changes.

My last encouragement is: Do not be scared to ask! The financial aid counselors deal with this stuff every single day! They know of scholarships and grants for your child . My "dumb" questions ended up saving my son several thousands of dollars that he will not have to pay back at the end of this college chapter. Make these staff members your new best friends. Treat them with respect and understanding, and they will return the favor!

Enjoy the ride!

Read more FAFSA Hints from other students and parents who have been through the FAFSA process.

Comment from your friendly team at College Financial Aid Advice

Thank you Nita for sharing your FAFSA hints for parents. I always encourage parents to be very involved in the process, because they have so much more experience in financial matters than the students. Check out our scholarship listings for more ideas for free money for college.
Good luck.

Parents, Don't Be Afraid of the FAFSA!

Come on Parents! You have taken extremely good care of your child as an screaming infant, a rambunctious toddler, an ever-changing tween. You've taught them how to drive and how to survive. Now, it is time for them to go to college and you are totally lost. How in the world are you going to be able to pay for it?

THE VERY FIRST THING YOU SHOULD DO......is fill out the FAFSA. Don't let it intimidate you! It is a very simple process. This is how you will find out what state grants you can qualify for. You will have to apply for a FAFSA PIN number which should be done around November before the year you are going to apply. You can fill out your FAFSA anytime after January 1st but it is advisable to do it as soon as possible to get the most help. The application is set up to be as easy as possible. Just take it one question at a time. If you haven't filled out your previous years' taxes, you can estimate your gross income, submit your application, then correct it after doing your taxes. If you get stuck on a question, you can get help by phone or online.

After you submit your application, you will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) that
explains the aid that your child will be eligible to receive. When filling out your application, make sure to list the colleges that your child hopes to attend and they will send a copy of your SAR to the financial aid offices.

That's all there is to it! The colleges will take it from there. So parents, please, don't get scared off by the FAFSA. It is there to help you and your child get the education he/she deserves.

Comment from your friendly team at College Financial Aid Advice

Thanks for sharing the most important tip - Fill out the FAFSA, even if you thing you won’t qualify. Most families will qualify for some type of aid, even if it is just Federal Student Loans. Most federal, state and private financial aid options, including scholarships and grants, require you to fill out the FAFSA.

Check out our FAFSA advice on our website. Good luck.

Filling out FAFSA with Tax Preparer Help

(by Clayton, Westphalia, MI)

Having made a decision that I will be attending college in the fall of 2013, I decided to take in some information at our high school on exactly what FAFSA was.

Upon sitting in on this session at our school, I was told that myself, the student, should be filling out the FAFSA application. So, after the meeting adjourned and I was back at home I decided to sit down in front of the computer and give it a try. WOW! I could fill out some of the information that was needed, but after getting into the forms a bit more I was really getting confused.

I am the oldest child in my family and so all of this is new to myself and my parents. I suggest that you either have your parents help you fill this out or even better, sit down with your tax preparer and have him/her help out.

Having your tax preparer help with these forms on-line is the option we chose. In choosing this option, I believe that this was the best for us as our tax person gave us much advice, advice that I would have gotten incorrect on the application. With this said, I was able to get a $1400.00 Pell Grant which is wonderful. Please make sure that you check the box that says you are willing to take part in work study. This is for on-campus jobs like food services, etc. This will help in your grant money if you are willing and able to do these studies during your college years. I'm not saying that this will for surely get you a great dollar amount of Pell Grant, but it is a help.

I will go back to my tax person next year as well and the year after that or as long as I need to complete my college degree for her to help me with the information that I am needed to provide.

Read more tips on filling out FAFSA from other students and parents who have been through the FAFSA process.

Comment from your friendly team at College Financial Aid Advice

Thank you Clayton for sharing your experience in filling out the FAFSA. I agree that the application can be confusing, and that it is often easier for the parent to fill out the application if you are a dependent student. But you also have a good suggestion about filling out FAFSA with tax preparer help, since tax preparers are familiar with the financial information required. An accurate FAFSA can provide you a lot of financial aid for college so it is worth spending a little money if you need that help to get it done right. Good luck to you.

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