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Tips for Filling out the FAFSA

by Mike Pugh, FastWeb.com

Filling out the FAFSA can be tricky. Keep these tips in mind and you shouldn't have any problems.

Identify Yourself

  • Use your legal name as it appears on your Social Security card. Nicknames or aliases will cause a processing delay.
  • Read the questions carefully. The words "you" and "your" on the FAFSA always refer to the student, not the parents.
  • To be considered a veteran, you must have served on active duty and been discharged under other than dishonorable conditions. If your service was only for training purposes (e.g. National Guard or Reserves, or ROTC), you are not considered a veteran for your federal financial aid application.
  • Remember to count yourself, the student, as one of the people in your household who will be college students during the award year.

Your Parents and the FAFSA

  • If your parents are divorced or separated, the parent with whom you lived the most during the past 12 months is the parent responsible for filling out the FAFSA. This is not necessarily the parent who has legal custody.
  • If the parent responsible for completing the FAFSA has remarried, the new spouse must report their income and assets on the FAFSA. Prenuptial agreements have no bearing on this requirement.

Your Dependents

  • A legal dependent is a person for whom you provide and will continue to provide more than half of their support. Support includes money, gifts, loans, housing, food, clothing, automobile, medical and dental care and payment of college costs. If you have a child who is supported by your parents or someone else, you should answer "no" to the question that asks about legal dependents other than a spouse.
  • If you have an unborn child who will be born before or during the award year (July 1 through June 30) and will be your legal dependent, that child should be counted as a member of the household.

Given the Option

  • In the question that asks about your interest in different types of aid (e.g. work-study and student loans), answer "yes" to each question. Answering "yes" does not obligate you to accept a loan or work-study position, nor does it guarantee you'll be offered either. Answering "no" to these questions will not get you more grant aid.
  • Even if you qualify for the simplified needs test, you should still complete the asset information section of the FAFSA. Some states and schools use this information for computing their own financial aid awards.
  • By submitting the FAFSA, you give permission to release your information to the state aid agency. You cannot apply for financial aid without releasing this information.

What Counts as Income?

  • The Earned Income Credit is considered "untaxed income" on the FAFSA. Other types of untaxed income include retirement plan contributions made during the year and military food and housing allowances.
  • Taxable earnings from work-study jobs as well as any grant or scholarship monies that were reported on your income tax return are counted.
  • Prepaid tuition plans are not reported as assets on the FAFSA.

Before You Send Your FAFSA

  • Whether filing online or off, sign the form (you'll use your PIN online) and get all the other required signatures. If you don't sign the form, you will receive an SAR, but you will not receive aid.
  • Do not include anything with the form when you mail it; any enclosures will be destroyed. Likewise, do not write comments or notes in the margins of the form. If there are unusual family financial circumstances, you should contact the school's financial aid administrator to ask for a professional judgment review.
  • Make a copy of the form before mailing it. You can print out your online FAFSA before you submit the application.
  • Submit the form on time.

If you don't understand a question or are having trouble filling out the form, call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243).

See also:

  • The FAFSA - Step One for Financial Aid
  • FAFSA Checklist
  • Common Errors on the FAFSA
  • FAFSA and the Independent Student

Copyright 2005 - FastWeb, LLC. All Rights Reserved. You may not copy, reproduce or distribute this article without the prior written permission of FastWeb.


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