Financial aid becomes available to prospective students and their parents as early as January 1. For those interested in offsetting the investment of higher education, completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid may help to alleviate the inevitable cost of your child’s education.
At the most basic level, applying for financial aid—whether it be through a grant, loan or work-study program—requires both you and your child to complete the FAFSA. A recent article in the The Boston Globe cited Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of the financial aid website Edvisors.com, in stating: “Filing the FAFSA as soon as possible after Jan. 1 increases applicants’ chances of getting the best financial aid packages for which they are eligible. Those who file the form from January through March receive, on average, twice the amount of grant money as those who file later.” With that in mind, here are some helpful points to get you and your child started.
Preparing for your child’s future
Before you can effectively apply for financial aid you will need to gather and organize financial-specific documents that will impact your child’s award. We have culled a list of information and documents you may need in order to successfully fill out the FAFSA, including:
- Your Social Security number (and your spouse’s, if applicable)
- Your child’s Social Security number
- Your driver’s license number
- If you’re not a U.S. citizen, your Alien Registration number
- Federal tax documents and tax returns
Where to find financial aid forms, such as the FASFA
In order to apply for financial aid you will first need to create a Federal Student Aid personal identification number. You can complete, submit and check the status of your application anytime on the FASFA website. If you would like to complete a printed version of the application, simply request one by phone at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243) or print one from the website.
Quick reminders and further resources
When applying for aid, don’t forget to put important dates on the calendar so you stay on top of any looming deadlines. For the 2017–2018 year, you and your child can apply for federal aid between January 1, 2017 and June 30, 2018. State deadlines can be found here.
For any concerns regarding out-of-pocket education expenses, use a tool—such as a net price calculator—for a preliminary estimate of scholarship, federal and institutional aid eligibility. Please note that your child’s actual eligibility will be determined once you have successfully completed the FAFSA in addition to any necessary forms required by the college or university your child is planning on attending. For any additional assistance reach out to the school’s student financial services office for useful guidance.