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Fill Out the FAFSA: 5 Tips To Know!

by | Sep 28, 2023 | Finances, Paying for College

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Are you getting ready to fill out the FAFSA?

Usually the FAFSA due date is October 1 every year, and everyone who has a high school senior all the way through their senior year in college needs to fill this out yearly.

However, this year (2023), the FAFSA will not be ready until December -now set for December 31, and as of today, December 29, their site is closed for maintenance. (Usually I recommend waiting a couple of weeks past the start date for the kinks to be worked out, plus the site will probably be on overwhelm for those first couple of weeks.)

*Editing to add that 2023 has been a mess. I went through all this with my son this spring. We uploaded his info in January, but didn’t receive confirmation that it had been accepted until the end of April. It normally doesn’t take that long! I will up date this at the end of summer 2024 with any new information regarding this year’s due date!

I am not an expert, but this post has tips to help you to be ready for the process of filling out the FAFSA whether it’s your first time or you have done it a few times before.

**This post contains affiliate links, which means if you click on a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small commission. As Amazon Associates we earn from qualifying purchases. For more information, see the full disclosure in the foot bar.

5 Things You Need To Know To To Fill Out The FAFSA
Fill Out the FAFSA: 5 Tips To Know! 16

5 Things to know to fill out the FAFSA

The FAFSA has historically been an overwhelming process, and we can all look forward to an improved process moving forward. This does not mean that there will be no kinks in the system. There always are, and as long as you are ready, and take your time filling out the now reduced amount of questions, you will be fine!

As your student begins the process of choosing a college, they need to determine the COA of each school they are looking at. COA stands for the Cost of Attendance. According to Federal Student Aid: COA is the amount it will cost a student to go to school. Most two-year and four-year colleges calculate their COA to show the total cost for the school year (for instance, for the fall and spring semesters). This includes things like housing, books, tuition, and transportation. Colleges will have this number posted on their website, and it is a true number to consider.

Each of the 5 things below will help to make this process as simple as possible for you. Whether your child will quailify for aid or not, and who knows with the new formula?! It is recommended that all families fill it out beginning the senior year of high school throughout their college experience.

#1 Fill out the FAFSA: Gather your financial information at least one week before the school’s priority financial aid deadline

Before you can even sit down to complete this form, you need to have a few things ready. This will make the entire process much easier.

And, lucky for all of us with college kids, they have reduced the number of questions from 100 to 36 -this is awesome because believe me -100 questions was a lot! Another benefit is that families will now know more specifically what aid they will qualify for and how much they will qualify for.

Bottom line, it is going to be a much easier process.

Here is the list straight from the FAFSA website of what information is needed from the student and his/her parents:

To complete the FAFSA, you will need:

  • Your Social Security Number
  • Your Alien Registration Number (if you are not a U.S. citizen)
  • Your federal income tax returns, W-2s, and other records of money earned. (Note: You may be able to transfer your federal tax return information into your FAFSA using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.)
  • Bank statements and records of investments (if applicable)
  • Records of untaxed income (if applicable)
  • An FSA ID to sign electronically.

#2 Fill out the FAFSA: Use the Federal Student Aid Estimator to determine aid

Use the Federal Student Aid Estimator to get an idea of how much federal aid you can expect. This used to be known as the FAFSA4caster, but things are a’changin! This new tool will be just one step in the process of finding out the cost for your child to attend college. You can access this anytime, meaning earlier than senior year in high school. This gives you a taste of the numbers to come and how to deal with your information.

Some other tools to use are:

  1. Go to the college website’s tuition and aid tab, then look at the school’s Cost of Attendance.
  2. Check out this Cost of Colleges by State created by a fellow writer -remember that these are only estimates.
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Fill Out the FAFSA: 5 Tips To Know! 17

#3 Fill out the FAFSA: Set up the FSA ID now

Here is the link to set up the FSA ID. This will be necessary for completing the FAFSA at a later date.

This is just one step of many that you can accomplish prior to filling out the FAFSA in December (2023). For this step, the only two things that you will need are your Social Security number and your own mobile phone number and/or email address.

Please note: if parents are divorced, then the parent who provides the greater amount of financial support is the information to fill out the FAFSA. However, the income of the other parent may be asked for if they have remarried by the date the FAFSA is due. If parents are divorced, but still living together, then both parent’s info should be included. (Please check with the actual FAFSA website to make sure to do this correctly!)

#4 Fill out the FAFSA: It’s now the SAI and not the EFC (what do these letters even mean?

Speaking of acronyms, do you know what FAFSA means? Free Application Federal Student Aid – a long way to say apply now!

Moving on…

Users used to fill out the FAFSA to find out what their EFC was. The EFC was the Estimated Family Contribution -the estimated amount a family would have to pay towards their child’s tuition after any aid. It was always a shocking number, and there were many ways to get around that number, but you needed to be strategic.

The problem with the EFC was that people assumed that this number was a “real” number and that a student couldn’t get around it. Not true.

They have changed the name of the results of the FAFSA to the SAI. This stands for Student Aid Index. It is still just a number that is generated to help determine what aid a student will need to attend college. The formula will be different, and the hope is that more students will qualify for aid.

It is still recommended that everyone apply. In many cases, even if you don’t qualify for aid, many schools award their own merit aid based on the completion of the FAFSA. My oldest son’s college even gave a $1000 each year just for the completion of the FAFSA -so you never know!

#5 Fill out the FAFSA: Create a new specific email address for all this

If you are getting into the college search, FAFSA filling, stage after high school era, then this is what you need to know! Have your teen reate an email specifically for scholarship searches, college applying, and FAFSA filling, and here’s why. Your child will be buried in emails. This is an easy way for you to be helpful.

Back when my boys were going through these days, I had their log in info for their emails. We talked ahead of time about what they were looking for in all the previously mentioned categories. These were multiple and ongoing conversations, and much thought went into their decisions. I had their full permission to delete various emails. From colleges that they weren’t interested in, duplicate emails from sites, and other things. I created files for the different things that they were interested in, and I saved only the things that they specified as important. If I was in doubt, that went into it’s own file too.

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Fill Out the FAFSA: 5 Tips To Know! 18

By eliminating all the extraneous emails, they were able to focus on the things at hand. By organizing the info, they were able to save time by focusing on the files that were important to them. We had a paper and Google calendar for due dates pertaining to school and scholarships and colleges. We were able to see the big picture and what was coming soon or down the road that they needed to think about.

As their mind changed, and things evolved, I also had their permission to unsubscribe to email lists, which helped to manage the million emails that they received.

IYKYK, please just set up the separate email -with an appropriate name -for the onslaught of info your teen is about to step into.

Also, if you have a teen who is 18, please consider the following information.

It is recommended that you get a power of attorney for the state that your teen goes to college in, as well as the state of permanent residence. Here is more info about each state’s requirements.

Grab both the health and financial power of attorney legal documents. We used them and printed these out for our two oldest boys while they were in college. It took less than 15 minutes to fill in the blanks, and print out!

I have heard horror stories about parents not being able to make medical decisions for their kids because this was not in place, so please do this for your peace of mind. *The cost of these forms is so much less than going to an attorney, which I checked into before doing this. And, talk about EASY!

One more tip that I would like to share, and you will laugh because it’s so easy… Have your teen memorize their social security number! This will come in handy in so many situations!

Will your student need Student Prime at Amazon? There are so many advantages to this including the price! Discounts on the following:

flights, tutoring, the Calm app, GrubHub, Prime videos and gaming, textbook purchases and rentals, Amazon photos, fashion Prime “try before you buy”, early access to Amazon lightening deals, and Whole Foods, and so much more!! Sign up for a 6-month trial here!

Posts related to Fill out the FAFSA

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NPP Review of Mama Bear Legal Forms -if you have kids over the age of 18, please read!

College Dorm Essentials

Dorm Room Move In Planner

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How2WinScholarships Review: NPP Reports -If you want the lowdown on best practices for getting scholarship money, this is the way to go!

We would love to stay in touch!

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