Saving Money for College: FAFSA

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We are right in the middle of sending two kids through college. This month, I’ll be sharing a few basic tips and steps we have used to reduce college expenses and ensure our children finish college without student loans. You can subscribe to the blog posts on the right to make sure you don’t miss the rest of the series.

Saving Money for College FAFSA at SkipperClan

My hope is that many of you will prepare years before your children are entering college. Unfortunately, our children need to think about the impact their choices have on their ability to attend college debt-free years before they apply to the schools. Time spent volunteering, studying for higher grades, and diligence in searching out scholarships even in their sophomore year of high school will all have a great impact. This series is written for the parents who are knee-deep in their child’s senior year of high school and don’t know where to start saving money for college.

If you are trying to balance the demands of senior year spring activities in the middle of planning for college, this series is for you.

The FAFSA {Free Application for Federal Student Aid} is one of the first steps you need to take to save money for college. You will want to file your taxes as soon as possible in order to have the most accurate income totals for FAFSA. The FAFSA is a series of questions about your household, student, and income sources. The form is free to complete and often required by colleges, even if you are paying cash for everything. You can complete the form online at https://fafsa.ed.gov/.

You will need:

  • Figures from your tax return
  • Personal information for yourself and student {social security numbers}
  • About an hour of time
  • List of colleges your student is considering

My personal recommendations:

  • Apply for all possible benefits, such as work study programs
  • Use the most accurate figures possible
  • Enter the school’s code via the search feature for accuracy
  • Keep your PIN in a secure place
  • Save the results as a PDF and/or print them before signing out

You will get:

  • SAR {Student Aid Report} showing the amount the family is expected to pay
  • Expected awards for Pell Grant {not a loan} and work-study {employment placement for income to be used as needed by the student, not a loan}
  • Loan eligibility {student loans are complicated and since we are not using them, I will not be covering the various options here}
  • SAR automatically sent to the Financial Aid offices of schools you selected in the application

Essentially, the FAFSA is a record of all your income sources {taxable and non taxable}, the student’s estimated expenses for attending the schools selected, and the estimated need to cover the difference. The SAR, or Student Aid Report, that shows the results is an estimate. Understand that your choices regarding housing, transportation, and books will affect your bottom line.

Another very important point is that the FAFSA uses last year’s income information to determine the need for a future school year. For instance, 2014 income determines the government’s estimate for your student from the fall of 2015 – the summer of 2016. Your income could change dramatically in that time. Most schools have a process you can use to verify if you have experienced a significant financial decrease that warrants consideration for additional grants. Each school’s individual Financial Aid office needs to be contacted in these cases as each one is unique to the school.

If you have a child attending college this fall, spend time this week getting your taxes submitted and login to the FAFSA site to begin your application. Note, if your child wants to attend this summer, you will need to complete one form for this school year {summer classes} and another FAFSA for next year {fall-spring-summer next year}.

The next few weeks I’ll be sharing more about how we combined scholarships, gifts, and good old-fashioned work to help our kids get started in college without student loans. I highly recommend the book, Debt Free U which may be found at your local library or here.

If you or your child have completed college without student loans, or you have questions about the FAFSA, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

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