Got FAFSA?

"FAFSA" is one of those acronyms tossed out whenever college comes up. It’s not nearly as well known as LOL or OMG.

But FWIW, it’s more likely to impact your cash flow than those other well-known abbreviations.

FAFSA = Free Application for Federal Student Aid. (Which explains why they use an acronym, right?) But those five letters are pretty important. Especially this month (i.e. October). Here’s why:

  1. The FAFSA is what helps determine whether you are eligible for federal loans, grants, or work-study. The FAFSA channels about $150 billion to college students every year. That’s a lot of dough. Just be sure you aren’t leaving your piece of it on the table.
  2. If you don’t fill it out, you get $0. Think your parents make too much? Well, here’s the thing…if you don’t try, you won’t know for sure, and if you try to qualify for need- or merit-based aid without having a FAFSA on file with your U, you may get $0. Fill it out. Doesn’t cost you a thing.
  3. This year, instead of a January 1 starting date to file a FAFSA, it’s OCTOBER 1. Yep. And it’s first come, first served. So don’t wait. Even if your parents’ taxes aren’t filed. Do it now!
  4. And speaking of your parents’ taxes, now you base your FAFSA on 2015 taxes, instead of waiting until 2016 taxes are due. It’s called “prior-prior year.”
  5. To start, go to FAFSA.ed.gov. You’ll need to create an FSA ID. (Another acronym! The world is chock full of them.) But the FSA ID is pretty much just a user name and password.
  6. Before you start, make sure you’ve got your and your parents’ social security number. And driver’s license numbers. And tax returns, W-2s, bank statements and investment earnings. BTW, if you live with one parent, you only need to list the income of the parent you live with.
  7. This is not a one-time thing. It’s something you’ll need to do for every year you’re in college.
  8. Questions? Your high school counselor or college financial aid office usually has the answers. Or search for “Tips for FAFSA” online. There’s lots of info out there that can help.
  9. Want to read about 11 most common FAFSA mistakes? Check out this article.

Considering that average student loan debt after graduating is around $30K? Taking the time to fill out your FAFSA is time will spent, and maybe even money in your pocket. HTH.