As the cost of higher education increases, so does the need for financial aid. Despite this need, many families tend to miss out on financial opportunities because they are unaware of certain processes or deadline information. Last year, high school graduates missed out on as much as $2.6 billion in free federal grant money. This money went unclaimed mainly because of incomplete or unsubmitted Free Application for Federal Student Aid forms (FAFSA). Get your fair share with these tips for filling out a FAFSA.
Not Sure If You’re Eligible? Complete It Anyway
Everyone should fill out the form even if you will not need assistance or financial aid. The information you use for FAFSA may actually be used by some schools and states to award merit-based aid and other scholarships. Also, you may not need the aid now, but nothing in life is guaranteed. If you do need aid in the future, the process will be much easier if you’ve already filled out the form.
You can find the FAFSA form here.
Getting The Data In Early Is Key
Submit the FAFSA as soon as possible because many colleges and states award aid on a first-come, first-served basis. Remember that beginning in 2017, the FAFSA can be submitted as early as October 1 (instead of January 1 as you may have done in the past.) This earlier submission date gives you more time to complete the FAFSA before college deadlines approach, which means more time to compare schools and more certainty. Start applying as early as possible!
Tax Data Has Changed
Along with earlier application dates, you can now use previous tax information from two years ago. This means there is no need for estimates and most people will be able to automatically import tax information directly into the FAFSA. Below are important details and deadlines related to the tax information that is required:
Stay On Top Of FAFSA Deadlines
- Many colleges have this date clearly marked on their financial aid pages. If not, check with the admissions office. The dates vary from school-to-school but are typically pretty early, well before the academic year starts.
- State deadlines are determined by your home state. Not sure when yours is? Check your state’s deadline here.
- This is the last deadline of them all. For 2018, online applications must be submitted by midnight Central Time, June 30. Any corrections or updates must be submitted by midnight Central Time, September 9.
- A few federal student aid programs have limited funds, so be sure to apply as soon as you can.
What Happens If I Miss The Deadlines?
- One word; don’t. If you miss the deadline, you will be no longer be eligible to submit your FAFSA. No FAFSA means no money.
Private School? Complete A CSS Profile
If you are looking at private schools, it may be necessary to complete the CSS profile. By filling out one form, you can apply online for non-federal financial aid from almost 400 colleges, universities, professional schools, and scholarship programs.
Applying for FAFSA is extremely important and beneficial. The cost of higher education is only going to rise, so it is imperative that you seize every financial aid opportunity you can to help avoid debt. Use the tips above, and don’t miss out on free money!