Quick Tips for the FAFSA

Monday, December 21, 2020

I've unofficially named October as "Financial Aid Season" for our high school senior students. The FAFSA (the Free Application for Federal Student Aid) opens October 1 and, usually, students have slowed down on their college applications and shifted their focus towards financial aid. 

October 1 is not a DEADLINE- it is just when the application opens. (Plan on seeing computer glitches or a slow website if you log in on October 1 to complete it.)

In short, the FAFSA takes a snapshot of a family's financial situation and determines how much money a family should be able to contribute to a student's education (according to them). The form can link directly to an IRS retrieval tool making the actual filling out of the form pretty easy (relatively speaking). Everyone has a different family scenario, so I like to refer to the FAQ page or live chat on the site for very specific or personal questions. Read on for a free resource to help prepare students for filling out the FAFSA.

Here is a free financial aid checklist to help you or your student(s) gather everything you need before they sit down and complete the FAFSA. In addition to this quick checklist, a student should also have a basic idea of some schools they're applying to (they can go in and change these later if needed), have a safe place to save their ID and password (a note in a phone works great!)

You should never have to PAY money to fill out the FAFSA... remember that acronym? That first "F" stands for "FREE." Be sure you're on the correct government website, and you won't be scammed! 

In October, as a high school counselor, I'm usually holding senior meetings to walk students and families through their post-secondary plans asking questions like "where do you see yourself in 5 years?" and determining whether students want to venture down a college, career, or military pathway after high school. I bust out the Senior Year Planning Guide to really help students brainstorm and organize what's to come for the year and beyond.

The FAFSA doesn't need to be intimidating! Since you can't apply before it's time, just plan on "showing up" in October with the right materials in hand to conquer it!

Download this free FAFSA checklist to keep yourself organized, and join my Counselor Clique for more helpful college tips!