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Your high school senior has mailed off their college applications and now it’s your turn to do some paperwork: Have you filled out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)? If your child is heading off to college this fall, you should start the New Year off right and apply now. The FAFSA process began in October but it’s never too late to apply for federal financial aid.
FAFSA is the form you and your child must complete to apply for need-based federal financial support while attending four-year colleges and universities, community colleges, vocational schools, and graduate schools. This assistance can include grants, which don’t have to be repaid; federal low-interest loans, which will need to be repaid; and work-study programs. The financial aid is offered on first-come, first-serve basis; so the sooner your child submits a FAFSA, the better the chances are to receive federal monetary assistance.
If your child is gifted academically, artistically, or athletically, and you’re planning that they’ll earn scholarships for their specialized skill set, you should still apply for need-based federal financial aid. Quite often, scholarships will not cover the entire cost of a college education. And your CollegeAdvantage 529 account can easily be used in conjunction with financial aid and scholarships.
Here’s another reason why you should fill in the FAFSA: States, universities, colleges, and private organizations will use FAFSA to determine what grants or loans to offer to eligible students interested in attending their school system.
To simplify the application process, starting with the 2017-2018 school year application, you can now use the information found on income tax return from two years ago, known as “prior-prior year.” For this FAFSA, you will use the 2015 federal income tax filings. With the “prior-prior year” tax return, you can complete the application with most up-to-date financial information. Originally, FAFSA was filled out with the tax return information from the prior year and most families weren’t able to start their tax returns until well after the release of FAFSA. This slowed down the financial assistance process.
The use of the “prior-prior year” tax return on FAFSA also benefits universities and colleges because it can reduce the time needed to verify asset information as the IRS already has it. Potentially, the schools can then more quickly determine and distribute their financial aid to students.
Don’t overlook FAFSA even if you don’t think your child will qualify for any need-based financial aid. . You never know for what financial assistance your child might qualify to use with your CollegeAdvantage account. If you wait until your child is accepted at a higher education institute before applying, you could miss out on federal, state, and university-given monetary support.
If you need help filling out FAFSA, the Ohio Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (OASFAA) offers online help as well as some in-person events across the state.
Posted on January 20, 2017