The FAFSA can feel really overwhelming and you may not know where to start. Maybe you’re even asking, “What the heck is it?” “Why does it matter?” We covered all of this and more in last week’s post. If you missed it, you can check it out here and catch up. Now, that we know what the FAFSA is all about and why it’s so important, how can you go about preparing and get ready to fill out the FAFSA? Here’s some ideas to help get you started and free resources as well!
TIP 1: Timing is Everything
The first time the FAFSA can be filled out is Oct 1 and deadlines will vary with different schools. It’s important to take note of these dates for the school a student is most interested in, because it could affect priority consideration. Sooner is always better, but no need to panic if you didn’t get the FAFSA out, right on Oct 1 – you still have time!
It’s simply important to file sooner than later to maximize your potential financial aid, as some money is first come first serve. Filing sooner is also a way of showing demonstrated interest.
TIP 2: Preparation is Key
Where should you start? There are two important places to begin.
– Gathering the right documents
Anything that relate to income, such as Tax Returns, W2 as well as assets, like a savings account, equities, etc… We have also included a simple and easy organizer below to help you through the process. Be prepared with these documents ahead of time, so you’re not scrambling to find them during the FAFSA process.
– Creating your FSA ID
TIP 3: College List and Priority is Essential
By the time it’s ready to fill out the FAFSA, your student will be in their senior year. The process changed a few years ago, from filing in January to October, which is now the process. Why does this matter? You used to have more time for a solidified college list, but now, it’s important to have that by at least August / September of a student’s senior year, to be able to maximize your financial aid applications in October. You’ll want to have a list ready so that you can add the school names to the FAFSA to be sent off to those respective schools. We recommend a list of 5-10.
Something else to remember: Schools now have access to your financials before admissions are decided. Schools can consider financial aid during the admissions process which is another reason to get your FAFSA filled out sooner than later.
One last tip: The order in which colleges are listed in the FAFSA is not shown to an individual college like they used to be. This means that this order, should not affect financial aid and admissions decisions.
These are just 3 tips to make filling out the FAFSA a lot easier. To make it even easier, we developed two checklists that show everything you’ll need for the FAFSA as well as helping you stay organized during the process. Click and download below!