Don’t forget the FAFSA

Have a student in college?? Don’t forget to complete the FAFSA each year. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a form completed by current and prospective college students in the United States to determine their eligibility for student financial aid. The FAFSA is different than CSS Profile (short for “College Scholarship Service Profile”), so check with your college to see if you should complete both, but definitely start with the FAFSA. The FAFSA opens each year on Oct 1st and closes March 1st. The information you submit now determines eligibility for the coming school year.

Here are a couple of questions we often get about the FAFSA are:

Should I even bother to fill it out? I don’t think I will be awarded anything…

Yes, for two reasons. First for most scholarships that merit based they want to have the FAFSA information, so in order to be considered for aid that is not need based you typically need the FAFSA.

The second is more of a strategy to consider…. Often the outcome of a FAFSA application is an award of loans and many families don’t want to borrow to fund education, but here is something to think about.  Most student loans do not start accruing interest until six months after graduation, so essentially it is interest free money if you can pay it back by six months after your student graduates. One idea is to keep your funds invested over the four years, and continue to earn something on your investments.  Then after graduation pull them out and pay off those loans before the interest hits. And an extra bonus is, if the loans are in the student’s name, they start creating a credit history for themselves. Not all loans hold the interest accrual until after graduation, some simply defer it. And there could be tax consequences to taking all of your investments out in one year to pay off the loans, so do your homework and make sure the details of the deal will work for you and your family.

 

Should my student try for independent status? Will they qualify for more aid?

In general, most students will qualify for more aid if they are independent because they would commonly have less income than their parents. But it is hard to be considered an independent student. The following is the criteria you must meet to file the FAFSA as an independent student.

An independent student must meet at least one of the following 10 criteria:

  1. You are age 24 or older by Jan. 1 of the school year for which you are requesting financial aid.
  2. You are married or separated but not divorced.
  3. You are pursuing a graduate or professional degree.
  4. You have children and provide more than half of their financial support.
  5. You have dependents (other than a child or spouse) who live with you and receive more than half of their financial support from you.
  6. You are serving on active duty (not training) in the U.S. armed forces.
  7. You are a veteran of the U.S. armed forces.
  8. At any point after you turned 13, both of your parents were deceased, you were in foster care, or you were in a court’s care.
  9. You are an emancipated minor or in a court-appointed legal guardianship.
  10. You are an unaccompanied youth who is homeless or at risk of being homeless.1

However if you do meet one of the criteria above it is not automatic that you will be considered and independent student. You should check with both FAFSA and your school for a determination. And start this process very early, it can take a while to get a judgement on your status.

 

To complete the FAFSA or get more information on it, follow this link to their official website https://studentaid.gov/h/apply-for-aid/fafsa.