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So You Have to Fill Out the FAFSA...Again?

So You Have to Fill Out the FAFSA...Again?
Yep. It's October. And, for anyone with children in college that means filling out the FAFSA every year. Whether you, the parent, or the student does it, the closer to the beginning of October you do it, the better.  If you haven't filled out th...
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Identify Theft and the FAFSA

Identify Theft and the FAFSA
Identity thieves might have access to your FAFSA information . At least that's a possibility, because the IRS has shut off their FAFSA application tool due to security concerns . The FAFSA uses a "data retrieval tool" to get your information from the...
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9 Secrets to Effortlessly Finish the FAFSA

9 Secrets to Effortlessly Finish the FAFSA

9 Secrets to Effortlessly Finish the FAFSA


In case you missed it, the FAFSA has changed! Instead of waiting until January, you can now start filling it out in October each year. If your child is in senior year of high school (or in college), don't delay! Now is the time to get to it!



To read the article with the full, step-by-step instructions for filling out the FAFSA (complete with screen shots!) click here: 9 Secrets to Effortlessly Finish the FAFSA

Have you filled out the FAFSA yet this year? What did you think? Please share!

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Acronyms Rule in October! PSAT and FAFSA

Acronyms Rule in October! PSAT and FAFSA

Acronyms Rule in October! PSAT and FAFSA


October is a big month for homeschoolers. It's when you need to know your stuff as the homeschool guidance counselor. But no need to freak out! It's fairly simple. There are only two acronyms you need to know: PSAT and FAFSA.

PSAT


The PSAT is a test that's only offered in October each year. I recommend it for 10th and 11th graders. It's a no-stress test, taken just for fun. Taking it in 10th grade will help your child learn to be calm and not freak out during tests. It will also help you, the guidance counselor, as you begin to think about which colleges might be right for your child, and consider how much test prep is important.

Taking the PSAT will help you start down the road toward college scholarships. Learn more about the PSAT here: Read more: Take The PSAT for Fun And Profit

FAFSA


The FAFSA is the first step toward financial aid. This is an urgent task in October during senior year. FAFSA stands for "Free Application for Federal Student Aid." It's a form you fill out every year, much like 1040 tax forms. You need to complete it yearly from high school senior year until college graduation.

Complete the FAFSA so you can get the best possible financial aid. The earlier you fill it out, the better. So you can see how learning about the FAFSA will help you every October for a while now, right? Read more: Complete the FAFSA for Fun and Profit



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8 Essential Facts You Need to Know about the FAFSA

8 Essential Facts You Need to Know about the FAFSA

8 Essential Facts You Need to Know about the FAFSA


Each year, the government doles out 150 billion dollars in education grants. Almost everyone can get some kind of aid, whether it's in the form of grants, loans, or work-study, and whether it's from the government or from schools. All of this is determined by your answers to the FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

The FAFSA applies to both undergraduate and graduate studies. No matter how wealthy your family is, you should fill out the application. This infographic from Personal Income shows some basic facts about the FAFSA.



The basic calculation is: How much will the cost of your education be, and how much can you and your family pay? Subtract the first number from the second, and you have the amount you're eligible for.

The FAFSA must be filled out every year your student is in school. The earlier you fill it out, the better. Even though there's a lot of aid available, you'll have access to more aid if you complete it sooner. January 1st used to be the earliest you could apply, with the final date at the end of June. But starting for the 2017-18 school year, you can begin three months earlier, on October 1st. Even if your family hasn't yet filed taxes when you apply, you can use estimated tax numbers to avoid delay.

There's a myth out there that the FAFSA provides only grants that do not have to be paid back. This isn't the case. Eligibility for Perkins loans, Stafford loans, and work-study programs are all determined through filling out the application. Still, in 2014, about $2.9 billion in Pell Grant money went unclaimed.

To start your application, visit the FAFSA government site. You also have the option of completing it over the phone, on paper, or hiring a fee-based service. Though there are many questions, the Department of Education estimates that on average, it takes less than 21 minutes to complete. It may take you longer (it sure took me longer!) but it's well worth the time.



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New FAFSA Available October 1st

New FAFSA Available October 1st

New FAFSA Available October 1st


Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is trying to make life easier for you. They will now allow you to begin filling out your FAFSA on October 1st of each year.

You will use the prior year's tax information, so there is no waiting around to collect all the tax info that you need to complete the FAFSA.

You will get a more prompt financial award, so that you can learn about your need-based financial aid while you are applying to college.

Earlier access to the FAFSA will help you know if you can afford college sooner in the year, relieving some stress, and allowing you to adjust your applications based on the financial aid you received.

In the past, I've written a lot about the 3 waves of scholarships.
1. Financial aid based on SAT/ACT plus GPA
2. Need-based financial aid related to the FAFSA
3. Merit, skill, or interview-based scholarships

There was a long pause between the waves of scholarships. There were often many months between admission ("Yippee! You got in!") and scholarship information ("Oh No! How can we possibly afford this?")

There will still be a pause between getting in and getting the final word on financial aid. With this new system, I hope you'll have fewer uncomfortable months, and a more prompt scholarship award!

For more information, read more from the Department of Education.

Federal Student Aid

FAFSA: Free Application for Federal Student Aid

Learn more: Complete the FAFSA for Fun and Profit




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Seniors - Estimate the FAFSA Now!

Seniors - Estimate the FAFSA Now!


The FAFSA needs to be filled out in January of senior year, but it requires tax information. How can you fill out that form when you don't even HAVE your tax information yet?The answer: estimate, then amend.

You fill out the forms with a close estimate of your tax information. Then, when you file your taxes for the year, go back and put in the corrected numbers, so your tax forms and the FAFSA forms match perfectly.

Let me give you just a few paragraphs to read. Since the FAFSA needs to be completed every year from senior year in high school for your oldest child, until senior year of college for your youngest child, you might as well start to understand it now, right? This information comes directly from the PDF booklet "Completing the FAFSA 1012-13"
http://studentaid.ed.gov/students/attachments/siteresources/2012-13CTF.pdf
The booklet is actually written pretty well, by the way, and I was able to understand it myself! Very little jargon! Pages 19 and 35, and you'll get a short explanation of the process.

On page 19, it says:
Q. I’ll be filing a tax return this year but I probably won’t get around to it until April. How should I answer the financial questions? Should I wait to fill out this form after I’ve filed my tax return?

A. Ideally, you should complete a FAFSA after you‘ve done your tax return, but don‘t wait until April. Many schools award aid on a first-come, first-served basis. Also, you may not be eligible for state aid if you wait until April to submit your FAFSA. Many state aid deadlines are early in the calendar year (calendar year 2012 for the 2012-13 award year). If you haven‘t completed your tax return, you should calculate your adjusted gross income (AGI) and taxes paid using the instructions for IRS Form 1040. You can get the instructions and the form at a public library or download them in Portable Document Format (PDF) from www.irs.gov/formspubs/index.html.

Keep in mind that if you submit your application before you complete a tax return, you may need to make corrections later if your income or tax information isn‘t accurate. You will also need to return any federal student aid you received based upon incorrect information.

You might have to provide your school with a copy of your completed tax return (assuming you‘re required to file one) before you receive federal student aid.

On page 35, it says:
How to complete the income tax section

It is best to use a completed 2011 income tax return to fill out this application. However, if you do not have a completed tax return, you should calculate your adjusted gross income (AGI) and taxes paid using the applicable IRS instructions. You can get the instructions and the appropriate tax form at a public library or download them in Portable Document Format (PDF) from www.irs.gov/formspubs/index.html.

When your application is compared with the tax return actually filed, the financial information must agree. If there are differences, you must correct the information using Corrections on the Web or by correcting your paper SAR and mailing it back to the U.S. Department of Education.

If you complete your FAFSA online, you may be eligible to electronically retrieve your tax information from the Internal Revenue Service and have it automatically transferred into your FAFSA. Retrieving your information from the IRS is an easy and efficient way to make sure that your most accurate tax information is included on your application.

Even if you (and your spouse) are not required to file a 2011 income tax return, you will need to calculate your earnings for the year. Use W-2 forms and other records to answer the questions in this section.

Parents with seniors, try to fill out your FAFSA paperwork now. College need the information to give you scholarship money. It's really worth the trouble!




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Have a FAFSA New Year!

Have a FAFSA New Year!
It's that time of the year again!!  The FAFSA should be completed every year, from the time your eldest is a senior until your youngest graduates from college, unless your children that go to a college that does not need or require it.  (Assume they need it for the first year.  Our full tuition scholarship meant I never had to fill it out again!)


Here is general information about the FAFSA

If you haven't gotten it already, get your FAFSA PIN now, because it takes a while to get to you - it's sort of like requesting a social security card.  Get one for you and one for your child. FAFSA PIN

You can practice filling out the FAFSA now, before you do it for real.  Here is the information I received about that:
FAFSA will be releasing access to its practice site on December 12, 2010. This site allows students and parents to train themselves on the FAFSAapplication, providing users with a more comfortable navigation of the actual process after January 1st. The test site is fafsademo.test.ed.gov. Use the following login information for your practice:

User name: eddemo
Password: fafsatest

Fill out the FAFSA every year on January 1st, estimating your financial information.   After you do your taxes each year, just update your financial information at that time.  Getting the estimate in on January 1st can increase your chances of financial aid - remember that money is often first-come, first-served.



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A December FAFSA Primer

A December FAFSA Primer
The FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.  You can get information at www.fafsa.ed.gov.  Here are the basics:

  • Completing the FAFSA feels like filling out the IRS tax forms.

  • Filling out the FAFSA can result in significant financial aid, even if you aren't low income.

  • The federal government uses the information to determine how much money they think you can afford to pay for college.  Isn't THAT a laughable concept!  Ha!

  • It is also used by many colleges (not all)  to determine financial aid you may receive.

  • Fill out the FAFSA on January 1st of the student's senior year of high school, and make that your New Year's Day tradition.   Repeat that process every January 1st until your youngest child has graduated college.

  • To fill out the FAFSA, you need a special PIN number.  Apply for the PIN in December or earlier.  You can apply for a PIN here:  http://www.pin.ed.gov/PINWebApp/pinindex.jsp




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Have a FAFSA New Year!

Have a FAFSA New Year!
The FAFSA (Free Applications for Federal Student Aid) is a financial form that helps the federal government determine your financial "need."  I just think the whole concept is hilarious, really!  Just imagine the federal government somehow knowing exactly what you can afford to spend on college!  OK, stop laughing!  Now let's get serious!

The FAFSA is the basis for many college scholarships. Seniors need to fill out the FAFSA as soon as possible each year.  In fact, many colleges suggest that parents spend each New Year's Day filling out the FAFSA.  Now really, what could be more fun?

Is it worth the hassle?  Let’s look at this really closely for a moment. I have mentioned that rarely do people pay “sticker price” for a college. I love to read about how the AVERAGE parent saves 43% of the average college costs – in both public and private school!

While you could conclude that you still need to panic about the cost, I prefer to look at the bright side. College costs are not as astronomical as they appear on the brochures.

There are people who believe you “should not” save for college because the more you save, the less that will be awarded to you through the FAFSA. Here is an article that says that saving money will not hurt you (at least with financial aid.)

For our family, we did what we could to save for college, knowing full well that we couldn’t save enough to pay the “sticker price” for a private school. We tried to save enough for the kids to attend a public university while living at home. That way, if they didn’t get ANY scholarships, we could still afford college.

Our FAFSA results confirmed that we weren’t penalized for our savings at all. Each family is unique, of course, but don’t hesitate to save for college because you think it will cost you in financial aid.

To get more information, there is a video that can explain everything.  It's called "The Five-Minute FAFSA Video" available on the Fastweb site.

Plan ahead, because you need to get a PIN number from the federal government in order to fill out the FAFSA.  Not surprisingly, it takes the government a while to get you the PIN once you request it!  Ask for your PIN in mid-December, so you'll be ready for January 1, and the big FAFSA party!

Not planning for financial aid is a mistake, but not the biggest mistake you can make when your kids are in high school.  Here is a resource that will help you avoid some real whoppers during homeschool high school.



Learn how to save money homeschooling with my free Special Report: “7 Secrets to Homeschooling Through a Financial Storm.”
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Will Saving Money for College Cost You?

Will Saving Money for College Cost You?

I saw this article about saving money from college, and it had some interesting tidbits. Here is the paragraph that caught my attention:



In 2007, according to the College Board, the average financial aid package totaled $9,500 covering 43% of tuition, fees, and room and board for one year at the average four-year college, public or private. This underscores the need for families to save in a dedicated college savings account to supplement the remaining costs. However, 60% of parents think that if they save too much toward their child's future education that it could negatively affect their child's chances of receiving financial aid. And that is just one myth about saving for college. Here are the other seven.

Let's look at this really closely for a moment. I have mentioned that rarely do people pay "sticker price" for a college. I love to read about how the AVERAGE parent saves 43% of the average college costs - in both public and private school! This article implies that we should therefore panic about the cost. I like to look at the bright side, though. On the bright side, college costs are not as astronomical as they appear on the brochures.

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