Don’t Delay in Filling out the FAFSA

Filing financial aid forms early can help your student receive more money to pay for college. 

By Anne Vaccaro Brady

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) became live on January 1, which means you should head over to the site and start or renew your child’s application now, even if you haven’t filed your 2014 federal income tax return. Some colleges require a completed FAFSA as early as February 15, so there’s no time to waste.

My original post on the FAFSA explains how to begin and which key pieces of information you should have on hand before you do.

Once you’re done, remember to update your FAFSA after you file your 2014 tax return. There’s even an easy tool that allows you to upload your information directly from the IRS.

To motivate and assist you in this challenging task, I’ve found some recent articles and posts which provide tips, point out common mistakes, and offer proof that early filers fare best, all included below.

Mistakes to avoid Liz Weston of Reuters highlights four ways applicants often hurt themselves when filing the FAFSA. These miscues can prevent students from receiving their maximum financial aid.

The Edvisors site also lists 12 common FAFSA errors and includes a tutorial and additional information to assist you through the process. Note: you shouldn’t have to pay anyone to help you fill out the FAFSA. Use free online resources or experienced family and friends instead.

Financial aid consultant Jodi Okun gives her three biggest financial aid mistakes that parents make in this interview on Grown & Flown. She also shares general, but very important, advice on how to plan to pay for college.

Answers to your questions Ann Carrns of the New York Times addresses three very common questions about the FAFSA.

Lynn O’Shaughnessy explains what you need to know about the FAFSA in her post on Moneywatch.

Alexandra Rice shares her insight on the importance of filling out the FAFSA in her post on U.S. News & World Report. She also discusses the advantages of filing early and more potential errors you should watch out for.

When parents are undocumented This NerdScholar post on USAToday College explains how students in this situation can still apply for financial aid and FAFSA.

Understanding how FAFSA works On, Lee Bierer explains how your finances are calculated for the FAFSA and gives an example of the types of aid a student can receive, plus how that aid can be applied to pay for both public and private college.

FAFSA for underclassmen To get an estimate on how much your family will be expected to contribute toward your child’s college tuition, visit the FAFSA site, scroll to the bottom and click on the “FAFSA4caster” on the righthand side of the page. The  estimate turned out to be very accurate with a family I recently helped file their form.  

Please share any tips, advice or other articles on filing the FAFSA in the comments section below. 

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