Get Ready! It’s Almost Time to Do Your FAFSA!

School has just begun for 2016-17 but, if you have a student who’ll be enrolled after June 30, 2017, it’s time to get ready to complete and submit your 2017-18 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

The 2017-18 FAFSA becomes available OCTOBER 1. That’s a big change from the past, when parents and students couldn’t access it until January 1. Nevertheless, you should submit the FAFSA as soon as possible on or after October 1 for three reasons:

(1)  Some colleges use FAFSA submission dates to determine the order in which they award their grants and scholarships. Institutional funds are limited, so the longer you wait to submit your FAFSA, the less likely you may be to get such awards.

(2)  Many colleges will also begin auditing FAFSA data this fall, so you’ll give yourself more time to supply them with the documents they need to resolve apparent errors or discrepancies on your FAFSA.

(3)  Sometimes the data you report on your FAFSA doesn’t fully capture your family’s unique financial circumstances, especially if things outside it’s control (e.g. lost jobs or wages, costly uninsured medical bills) have undermined your family’s capacity to pay college-related expenses. You can find out what your financial aid office needs to take these “special circumstances” into account, then have lot’s of time to follow-up before 2017-18 financial aid is awarded.

More than $190 billion a year in financial aid goes to families who do the FAFSA. It collects data on each student’s family and family finances. These numbers help determine what your student may receive in federal grants, loans, and work-study. Many colleges, private scholarship providers, and states also use FAFSA information to award their financial aid.

You can get a rough estimate of the federal financial aid for which you’ll qualify by using the government’s FAFSA Forecaster. It takes less than 20 minutes to complete, it’s confidential, and it’s free.

Not sure where your student is going to college yet? Don’t worry. You can use the FAFSA to apply for financial aid from up to 10 different institutions.

Note: Look here for additional FAFSA guidance every Thursday between now and October 1 — “Who Completes the FAFSA?” on September 15, “What’s Needed to Complete the FAFSA?” on September 22, and “Last Minute FAFSA Q & As” on September 29.

College Affordability Solutions offers you 40 years of financial aid experience as a parent, professional, and student. Need some FAFSA help? Call (512) 366-5354 or email collegeafford@gmail.com.

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