Heading to College? Check Out Our FAFSA Tips!

FAFSA forms may seem like a headache, but filing your paperwork could save you a bundle for college! Learn our best FAFSA tips in our student guide.

FAFSA Tips to Help Fund Your Studies

College-bound students across the country have a lot to juggle, but your FAFSA is one form that you don't want to forget! Filing your FAFSA form, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, could help you qualify for tons of different grants and awards. While filing this paperwork can feel a little overwhelming, anyone can do it. Just follow our guide to uncover our top FAFSA tips, and you'll be ready for the fall semester with a smile!

Why Fill Out the FAFSA?

Filling out your FAFSA paperwork is essential if you hope to receive financial aid. No matter your family's income level, it never hurts to submit your forms. Why? The FAFSA qualifies students for tons of different opportunities: grants, loans, work-study programs, private awards, and much more. Both merit-based and need-based student aid is handed out through the FAFSA program, so don't miss out on some potential cash!

How Do I Fill Out the FAFSA?

Filling out your FAFSA forms takes some time, so set aside an hour or two to really concentrate. If possible, work on your FAFSA early in the year to help maximize your eligibility. If you wait too long, you might miss out on awards that were handed out to the early birds.

Additionally, you need to gather the following documents for yourself. If you are a dependent, you will also need this information from your parent or guardian:

Identification: Social Security Card, driver's license, alien registration card

Investments: Information about your stocks and bonds, real estate, business assets, farm assets

Banking: Statements, balances

Taxes: W2s, untaxed income information, other pertinent tax information

Now you have all the information that you need to go through the paperwork. Just read closely and take your time!

How Can I Maximize my Financial Package?

Here is where we get into the nitty gritty. The FAFSA is based your family's expected contribution or the EFC. Based on your estimated assets, you receive a package of student aid to help fund your college studies. However, student and parent assets are calculated differently. Student assets are assessed at 20 percent, while parental assets are assessed at around 5.6 percent. That means that parents may benefit by transferring some assets to the student if possible. This can help maximize your need-based grant potential.

What Assets are Left Out of the FAFSA Assessment?

While the FAFSA is pretty comprehensive, there are certain assets that are not used to calculate your EFC. This can be another loophole while maximizing your student aid. For example, your family and vehicles do not count in the FAFSA calculation. Parents can consider paying down the mortgage or paying off a car loan to boost your chances at a great student aid package. Parents can also consider maxing out their retirement accounts since they aren't calculated into the FAFSA estimate either.

What About Unexpected Circumstances?

If your parents suddenly lose their job or you accrue medical expenses, then your FAFSA paperwork may not reflect your current circumstances. Talk to the financial aid office to ensure that you aren't penalized for unexpected expenses to the family. You can also look into options like cash advances and personal loan services from Cashmax as a safety net in these tough times. 

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