If you’ve got a child in college this year – or a child who is a senior in high school – then you need to be aware of the FAFSA change that start this year.
For those who aren’t familiar already, FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. It is critical that every family with a child in college (or who is applying for next year) to fill out this document EVERY year. Doing so is the key to helping your child get any federal assistance they might quality for to help pay college expenses.
Even if you don’t think your child will qualify for federal aid, you still need to fill out the form. Many colleges require it before they will even consider your child for any university-based scholarships. Unless you’re rolling in money you need to make the completion of this form a high priority. By the way, if you are rolling in money, I’ve got a college student I’d love for you to help support!
What FAFSA change starts this year?
This year, you can submit the FAFSA on October 1. This is a change from previous years when you had to wait until January 1. You will use your 2015 tax returns to supply the financial information. Unlike previous years, you won’t have to update the forms once you’ve done your 2016 filing.
This link to the CNN article on FAFSA changes is a great read. I’m not going to restate its points because you’ll want to read the article for yourself. It clearly walks you through the process and answers questions you might have.
Organizing for FAFSA
I will offer an organizing tip for the FAFSA since you’ll have to compete this every year your child is in college. Once you get all your records together and get a PIN number, put everything together in a file folder or notebook and put it where you can easily find it again next year (and the years after that).
Nothing is more frustrating than scrambling to pull all of this information together again, and then to wonder, “Now, what was that PIN number?” Don’t ask me how I know this, just suffice it to say that you’ll be grateful next year when all you have to do is pull the file or notebook and everything is in place. And if you’ll make it a habit each year to put an additional copy of your tax return into this folder or notebook, you’ll be pretty much set when it’s time to sit down an complete the forms.
Don’t put this information in a box and store it in the basement, attic, or garage. You’ll be getting in to it often enough that easy access is important. You may even have times during the school year when your child calls home and needs to know that PIN number again. You don’t want to have to start culling through boxes to find the information. Ours is in a notebook that stays close to the office. At least it is now – some things you just have to learn the hard way.
Get started now!
It’s easy to look up and think, “Holy cow! We’ve got to get those forms filled out!” Why not go ahead and get started now? It may seem early to you, but it’s really not. The money at your child’s college may be limited and the sooner you get in line, the better your chances are of receiving aid and/or scholarships they may qualify for.
Be sure to check out How to Deal With Your Child’s College Choice if you weren’t thrilled with their choice.