Did you know that billions of dollars of free federal grant money have gone unclaimed due to incomplete applications and those who opted not to complete the application. Many parents conclude they won’t qualify. How do you know unless you try? Every student should complete the Free Application For Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) after they create their Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID, which will serve as their legal signature. If you are a parent, you’ll need to create one as well. Your child can only create their FSA ID using their personal information, for their exclusive use. The same applies to you.

Here are a few additional things to consider:

  • It’s a good idea to apply for college and financial aid together
  • Review or print out a PDF copy of the FAFSA application and review it together with your child before completing it online
  • Print out and complete the FAFSA on the Web pre-application worksheet before completing the FAFSA
  • Gather all of the necessary documents and info
  • When asked at the end of the Step One section if you are interested in being considered for work-study, check “yes” even if you plan not to; it shows the financial aid department that you need money; you’ll have the choice later to accept it or not
  • Don’t miss priority deadlines; a lot of schools award funds on a first come, first served basis; usually, all submissions are received equally up to the deadline; check for the admissions application deadline AND the priority financial aid deadline for your child’s college(s) of choice
  • Include every school your child is applying to attend (there’s room for four schools); you can always go back and add others, but start with 2-4
  • Only use your FSA ID to electronically sign the FAFSA when it’s ready for submission; remember, the FAFSA belongs to your child, the student, and should be completed by him or her
  • Read instructions and questions carefully; careless errors can delay processing and reduce or cause you to miss out on funding
  • Make sure your child’s name matches the name assigned to their social security number
  • Every situation is different; don’t compare you and your child’s situation to that of another family; if you have a question, go to the official site or call for answers
  • Patience with college financial aid departments and FAFSA representatives helps with any situation related to money and college; being impatient or short-tempered can make the process more challenging
  • Don’t procrastinate; give yourself a long runway to prepare and complete what’s required before taking off and submitting the FAFSA
  • Don’t forget to click submit; you’d be surprised to know that some miss out because of this simple oversight
  • Always print a copy of your application and your receipt for easy reference and your files
  • Follow up after you file; colleges have a lot going on and can lose forms, so please follow up to confirm everything you submitted was received and in order

For even more information, visit the FAFSA Help page. If you need to take a deeper dive into what to include and not to include in the way of financial information, visit road2college.org and sign up for one of their webinars. And, stay tuned, as Debbie Schwartz, the founder, will be joining me for a cool conversation in next month.

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