Now that we are into the new year, the parents of high school seniors who believe they will need financial aid to pay for college need to be thinking about filing the FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
The FAFSA is required of all colleges that provide federal financial aid including grants and loans. If you wished to be considered for need based aid, filing the FAFSA is a requirement. Some families believe that their income is too high to qualify for need based aid and some of you are correct that you won’t qualify for aid. But be aware that it takes a substantial income in many cases to keep a student from getting federal financial aid.
If you aren’t sure about whether you will qualify for aid look at one of the more expensive colleges that your student is applying to and complete the net price calculator that every college should have on their website. If that calculator shows you getting any need based money you should file a FAFSA.
The FAFSA is particularly easy to fill out if you have already completed your taxes but if you don’t do your taxes early, you should still fill out the FAFSA early and use estimated numbers for the form. More than half of the families that complete a FAFSA use estimated numbers so this isn’t a problem at all. You can go back and revise the FAFSA once you have the final numbers from your taxes.
Be aware that many colleges have priority deadlines for filing the FAFSA, often February 15, so find out when each of your students deadlines are for filiing the FAFSA and get it done before those dates.
You should also be aware that many of the most selective colleges also require a financial aid form called the CSS PROFILE in addition to the FAFSA. This additional form is typically used by colleges to determine how much of the aid from the college itself that you might qualify for. Since many of these colleges have significant institutional aid available, this can be a significant source of financial aid.
If you need help paying for college, you should seriously consider filing a FAFSA.