Admit it: Parents with college-bound children dread FAFSA season. The latest FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, was released on January 1st, 2013. Financial aid from the government, states and colleges often require families to complete the FAFSA.
Over the past several years, I have helped families avoid some critical mistakes. These mistakes can cost parents thousands of dollars in assistance. Crisp Consulting + Coaching would like to offer a few strategies for families to rightly complete the FAFSA application.
Right Time. Now is the time to complete the FASFA. Do not procrastinate until April, when your income taxes are due, because you will forfeit deadlines for state financial aid assistance and institutional moneys. If completing your income tax promptly is impossible, fill out the FAFSA with estimated numbers.
Right assets and investment. Do NOT mention retirement assets on the FAFSA. Including your retirement assets will sink your chances of financial aid. The FAFSA does not require reporting of vehicles as 401(k) plans, Individual Retirement Accounts, and other qualified retirement plans. If you mention these assets on your FAFSA, your chances for need-based financial aid will shrink.
Right home. The FAFSA will NOT ask if you own your residence. Home equity cannot jeopardize your chances for need-based aid. The federal financial aid form does inquire about second homes and real estate investments. In addition to a primary home, you also should not mention vehicles, boats, furniture, and other household possessions as assets.
Right Parent. In situations of separation or divorce, the parent who has lived with the child for the majority of the year should complete the FASFA. The parent who is the legal custodial guardian is not necessarily this person. If a child, for instance, resided with the father for seven months and the mother for five months, the dad would complete the document. Ideally, the divorced or separated parent who handles the FAFSA will be the one with the lowest income. That’s because only his or her finances will be shared on the aid form.
Right to help. It is true, “there are no dumb questions.” When filling out the FAFSA, you can obtain help through the government’s toll-free number: (800) 433-3243. You can also take advantage of the government’s online chat sessions by using FAFSA on the Web Customer Service Live Help from Monday through Saturday.
Right to make it right. Once you have submitted the FASFA, you can return and correct any errors. Return to your online form and click on “Make FAFSA Corrections.” The government will process your changes within three to five days.
Right to laugh. There is no reason to be glum about this tedious chore. Check out a sock puppet video with helpful hints about the FASFA!
Brian D. Crisp is an independent educational consultant with Crisp Consulting + Coaching who works with families in Asheville, Charleston, Raleigh-Durham and Savannah to optimize and realize their unique educational fit and admission success. As a former professor, administrator, and teacher, Brian has the knowledge and skills to counsel families in all aspects of educational planning.