Filing the FAFSA for Higher Education Costs

Even if you expect to cover your child’s college costs through sources other than Federal aid, it usually worthwhile to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). In addition to determining your family’s eligibility for Federal assistance, the FAFSA is the primary qualifying form used by many college, state, local, and private financial assistance programs.

The first step in applying for financial aid is filling out the FAFSA, which is distributed and processed by Federal Student Aid, an office of the Department of Education. The simplest way to complete the FAFSA is through the office’s website, www.fafsa.ed.gov. Filling out the form online will alert you to mistakes or omissions; it can also speed up the processing time by one to two weeks.

If you are requesting aid for your dependent child’s education, the documents you will need to complete the forms include your Federal income tax return,W-2 forms, and other records of money earned from the previous year, current bank statements, records of untaxed income, current business and investment mortgage information, investment records, and a Federal student aid PIN to sign electronically (www.pin.edi.gov). If you are divorced and are the child’s custodial parent, only information about your own household’s income and assets, including any child support and alimony, are required by the FAFSA. While some colleges take into account the financial resources of the non-custodial parent in determining the student’s need, the Federal government does not.

When filling out the FAFSA, you may request that your financial information be sent to up to 10 colleges. If your child intends to start college in the fall, it is usually advisable to file the FAFSA as soon as possible after January 1 of that year, as deadlines for submitting FAFSA information may be early in the year for some colleges and state awards programs.

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