22 Facts About the FAFSA

It’s FAFSA season so I’m going to devote at least a couple of college blog posts this week to financial aid forms.

The post today was actually written by Michael Szarek, an independent college counselor with Counseling for the Rest of Us in New Jersey.

If you have any questions about the FAFSA or CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE, just share them with us in the comment box below. I’ll try to answer them this week.

22 Facts About The FAFSA

1) The FAFSA is THE form required at all colleges that accept and award federal aid.  (Yes, there are a few that do not participate in the federal financial aid system, but these schools are rare. )

2) It’s the form that provides your college financial aid officers with the information they need to go ahead and create your financial aid package.

3) FAFSA stands for FREE Application for Federal Student Aid.

4) Hence, it’s FREE.

5) It’s available online at www.fafsa.ed.gov.  NOT dot com, NOT dot org, NOT dot anything else.

6) You can still get a paper version, if you really, really, really want to.  But you don’t.

7) It utilizes a July-to-June calendar.  In other words, we are in the middle of the 2011-2012 year and “New Year’s Day” is July 1, when we move to the 2012-2013 year.

8) The 2012-2013 form is available for processing on January 1, 2012.

9) The FAFSA helps determine the awarding of over $150 billion in federal aid, as well as state aid.

10) The majority of colleges also use the FAFSA to determine who qualifies for their own institutional need-based aid.

11) If you have your 1040 income tax return available, the form can be fairly straightforward.

12) Do not pay someone $1500 to fill the form out for you to “maximize your aid potential”.  Generally, the only one receiving more aid in that situation is the preparer.

13) The FAFSA is based on your current household and your current assets. What you’ve got in the bank and investment accounts on the day you complete the FAFSA.

14) But the FAFSA wants to know about last year’s (2011) income for your household.

15) If your parents are divorced or separated, it’s based on the parent you spent the most time with in the previous year.

16) And your step-parent, if there is one in that household.

17) Don’t send notes to the federal processor.  They’ll just shred ‘em.  Your concerns and questions should be directed to the financial aid office of the school you attend or are planning to attend.

18) Your parents saying that they won’t pay for College does NOT grant you independent status. To be considered independent, you have to be 24 years old, married, a military veteran or some other factors you can learn about here.

19) Here’s a link to a useful webinar about the FAFSA. (Useful, but 60 minutes in length)

20) Here’s a link to my favorite FAFSA video. (Enjoyable, only 5 minutes in length)

21) Here’s a link to my Facebook page – feel free to post any $$/FA questions you have.

22) If you have FAFSA questions, you can the federal government’s hotline at (800) 433-3243.

Read More from The College Solution:

Avoid 10 Common FAFSA Mistakes

4 Ways to Get FAFSA Help

My Upcoming College Workshop:

I wanted to let you know that I will be holding my next two college workshops at the University of California, San Diego on Jan. 28 and Feb. 4. At the workshops — you can sign up for one or both – I aim to share with you ways to help you make smart decisions about picking colleges and making them more affordable. You can learn more here and sign up for the workshops here. Lynn O’Shaughnessy

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  1. *** Background

    Divorce situation. 50/50 Joint Legal custody. Flexible roughly 50/50 Physical Custody arrangement, but we don’t keep careful track of which house the kids are at most of the time.

    Parent A makes more money, and works out of the home full-time, than Parent B, and actually claims them as dependents on their tax return.

    Parent B works from home, makes less money, and does more of the kid shuffling during the week, driving them or picking them up, dealing with stuff as it comes up.

    Both parents split much of the children’s expenses.

    *** Question

    Without knowing exactly how much time is spent at each house, can parent B, the lower income earner, still legitimately file the FAFSA?

    What are the benefits/risks, if any, with doing this?