Students And Parents, It's Time To Fill Out Your FAFSA

Tax time is also FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) time for students and their parents. While the federal due date is June 30th, in some states, the FAFSA is due even before your taxes, so make sure to remember this important piece of paperwork.

To learn about your state’s deadlines and about the FAFSA in general, click here.

To get started with your application, click here.

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  1. gte879p says:

    Oh that’s right student loans. Which reminds me of my next question: Does anyone know of any good student loans for Grad-school? I’m not a minority, I don’t have huge financial need (but it would help me avoid loans!), and I’m male and not trans-gendered.

    Buying a big book O’ 5000 Scholarships, there are a surprising LACK of scholarships I am eligible for. (But i’m applying for the 20-30 or so that I do match).

    fastweb is the only online scholarship tool I’ve used so far… but mostly it looks like it sucks. “Win $2500 scholarship for getting someone else to sign up for fastweb!” or my fvorite “Is it ok for a Navy Recruiter to contact you?”

    There are alot of scholarships for undergraduate degrees…

    Anyone have any good suggestions?

  2. GoldHoops says:

    Actually, and I SWEAR I’m not trying to be one of those commenters that is willfully contrary, it was time to fill out your FAFSA two months ago.

    Colleges and universities give out there funding on a first come, first served basis. Every guidance counselor, admissions officer, and financial aid officer I’ve spoken with has told me that the FAFSA should be filled out on or as close to February 1 as possible, to ensure you or your child gets the first bite at the apple.

    Yes, it does require information from your tax return, but you can put in estimates and update it later once you file your taxes.

  3. evslin says:

    @GoldHoops: Yes, I just went through the process and the first thing I was told was to do it ASAP after I file my taxes. That was a couple months ago.

  4. m.ravian says:

    um, the FAFSA was due March 1st…..?

    posting a little late for those of you who actually want to get federal work study and whatnot.

    also, i almost always have filed my FAFSA before i did my taxes. i just estimate the amount of income, and then when i actually do my taxes later, the website will allow you to go back and adjust it if need be.

  5. 44 in a Row says:

    Some schools also had financial aid deadlines (or, at least, “priority” deadlines for new students) weeks ago. So yeah, now is a little bit late.

  6. AmbroseP says:

    I usually turn my financial aid application in around this time (my deadline is April 15th). I’ve never had a problem with it. Though that’s probably attributable to my financial aid dept…

  7. matto says:

    Some shithead in the federal government lost my Selective Service postcard 16 years ago, which I only discovered three years ago when I applied for FAFSA. The best part is that there is absolutely no recourse for me. Three cheers for worthless government employees!

  8. mduser says:

    knew of some colleges where they basically wanted a FAFSA by mid-February or early March, and if you have an employer that waits until the last possible day to mail out W-2’s (January 31st), then it makes for a very rushed application process.

  9. sarahplum says:

    I filled out my FAFSA January 1st; so did my husband. Unfortunately, because the financial aid process is one of the most idiotic processes on the face of the Earth (second in my mind only to rebates), I won’t be processed for financial aid until the IRS will prove to my college that I didn’t file taxes… and that won’t be until June.

    So for now, I wave goodbye to all of the need-based aid I’d otherwise be untitled to, and go further into high-interest debt because of some ridiculous red-tape.

  10. azntg says:

    I filled my FAFSA and New York State TAP in mid-January. The school doesn’t exactly bother me to confirm anymore. I guess they got the point that my parents will not be making more income anytime soon and that I’ll be staying with my parents for a little while longer…

  11. CRNewsom says:

    @sarahplum: Not trying to blame you, but you could file your taxes for free online (as a token effort, since I assume you have no income), just to get the process moving a little more swiftly.

    /Estimate your taxes, send the form in on January 1st, that’s the way to do it…

  12. chargernj says:

    @GoldHoops: If you can avoid using estimated taxes please do so. I’m a financial aid counselor and experience shows that students who use estimated numbers are far more likely to be chosen for verification. That is they will be required to submit more documentation to the financial aid office (like tax returns, and other financial documentation) in order for their aid to be processed.

    I always tell students that when they do their taxes they should also do their FAFSA at the same time. Now to just get these students to stop going to tax preparers for those same day refund rip-offs. Most of them don’t make enough money that they would need a professional to do their taxes for them in the first place.

    A few pointers:

    0. FERPA (Family Education Right to Privacy Act) I can’t discuss your child’s financial aid package without them being present. It is against the law. If some other college did, then realize that they are breaking the law and may have lax oversight on how they give out information. I can discuss loans to parents. Also I can talk about federal, state, and institutional policies regarding how aid is determined and administered.

    1. Make sure your registered for Selective Service: just about anything you send to the government will receive some kind of response, even if just to tell you that it was received. Telling them that you sent it and they must have lost it won’t fly. They will ask to see the response they sent you or some other solid proof that it was done.

    2. If you are married please make sure your taxes are correct. Some people who are married will file as Head of Household to get a bigger refund. This often doesn’t get caught by the IRS, but it will get caught when they cross check your FAFSA with the IRS records. Usually they should have filed as Married filing Jointly, or Married filing Seperatly. If you do file incorrectly you won’t get any aid till you file an amended tax return (form 1140X).

    3. We want you to file early not so package you earlier, but also so that we can resolve any problems that may come up. Like you being selected for verification.

    4. New students and their parents. Don’t call the Spring before asking if your kid can have more money, by and large it is out of our hands. We have a formula that we have to adhere to, and you asking for more won’t change that. Most schools do have an appeal process, and most won’t even consider your appeal until the semester begins. The money for next year has already been used up, only after the new academic year begins do we see home many students didn’t show and we can now start handing out that money to those who did. Maybe.

    5. Don’t ask me to give you more aid or you’ll go to another college. We are not getting into a bidding war over your little brat. They may mean the world to you, not so much to me. The economy is down and enrollment is up, if your little pride and joy doesn’t come someone else will gladly take their spot. If some other school will give you more aid and it really is a better deal for you then why are we even talking?

    6. FERPA, yes again, I can’t discuss the specifics of your child’s package without their presence/written permission. Even if they are 17, I can’t do it so don’t ask. Don’t like it call your Congressman and ask them to change the law.

    Sorry such a long post…

  13. FightOnTrojans says:

    @sarahplum: Wow! Which school is that? Is that undergrad or grad school? The reason I ask is because most schools, if all that they are waiting on is verification, will go ahead and set up the package, but just not release the info to the student in case revisions need to be made. Therefore, your need-based aid is probably already set aside for you. That is for undergrads. Grad students usually don’t receive need-based aid, but they are eligible to apply for scholarships (with or without a need component), or tuition awards and stipends in exchange for working as a TA or research assistant. At least, that was the way it worked at the school I worked at.

  14. LiC says:

    Priority deadline for FAFSA at most schools is March 1st.

  15. ecwis says:

    Yeah how am I supposed to fill out my FAFSA when I have to enter specific information from my mother’s 2007 tax return? Yeah. I love the federal government.

  16. FightOnTrojans says:

    @chargernj: Ha ha! Brings back so many memories. I especially like how FERPA is “0.” Might I add:

    7. Don’t commit fraud. We don’t like being lied to.

    8. Don’t pay rent in cash or services rendered if you get financial aid for rent. Receipts don’t work, either. WRITE A CHECK! If you fail to do this, and get caught in the housing audit, don’t come crying when your financial aid package is reduced by 8K+. Oh, and don’t threaten us with a lawyer, as it severely undercuts your argument that you are a poor, starving college student if you could afford a lawyer. (Also, if your “lawyer” is also the guy who is paying your rent for you, and his email address is “illsue4you@xxxxxx.xxx” we will NOT be impressed.)

    9. Please, please, PLEASE come see us the moment something negative happens in you or your family’s financial picture, we may be able to help. Don’t wait until you get the letter from the university saying you’ll be kicked out/won’t be allowed to register if you don’t pay your bill by yesterday. We want to get out in front of this for you and run interference, but we can’t do anything if we don’t know about it. TELL US!

    10. Please understand that while the university may have an endowment of several gajillions, they only allocate so much to our office to dole out. Our boss has to make an educated guess when she tweaks the formula and hopes she doesn’t go over the budget. She’s really good at this, and usually ends up with a surplus at the end of the year, which she’ll turn around and give to the students at the end of the year (usually around March) whereby certain loan components are replaced with university grant. The amount varies, so don’t expect it every year. Don’t complain to us, as we have no control over it.

  17. Angryrider says:

    Thankfully I filled mine out last month or so, after the goading of my parents. Then again I did the same to them about their taxes, Flanders-style!

  18. Drivinmom says:

    I think FAFSA is a waste of time I only do it because it’s the only way my daughter can get the pittance of loans they offer her. If your parents work hard and make a bit of money then financial aide is not available to you. Go figure I pay for others to go to school with my tax dollars and I pay for my kids to go to school with my income.

  19. Kishi says:

    FAFSA deadlines vary by state, I believe. My college wanted you to file by February 15th.

    And remember, go to fafsa.ed.gov, not fafsa.com. I had a friend make that mistake a couple weeks ago. We soundly ridiculed him for it.

  20. the_wiggle says:

    @ecwis: excellent question!

    my parents refuse to discuss finances or taxes; 1 hasn’t filed since 1988 & the other signed all sorts of stuff in all us kids’ names too boot. So just HITH am I supposed to complete ANY form for financial aid?

    and for that matter, where’s all the non-work related guidance etc. for adults returning to school?

  21. sarahplum says:

    @CRNewsom: You must have misunderstood; I’m not required to file taxes because I don’t have any income– I’m a fulltime student. Because I’m independent (I’m married), they can’t just take my word for it like they can other people my age, who are considered dependent under the umbrella of their parents.

    So they have to wait until after tax season to verify that no, I did not infact file taxes and was not required to by the IRS.

  22. sarahplum says:

    @CRNewsom: What I meant to clear up in my previous comment (damn you foggy head from Sudafed!) was that according to the school, because I lack an income, even if I technically file taxes showing that I didn’t have any income, they still have to wait until mid-June for the IRS to confirm that no W-2 was processed under my SSN, and that I didn’t therefore have any taxable income.

    Whether I file taxes or not is irrelevant, because they still require the tax transcript which the IRS won’t process until then.

  23. sarahplum says:

    @FightOnTrojans: It’s for undergrad (although in another year, it’ll be grad at the same school because of my combined program).

    I failed to mention that in addition to the tax transcript, they required me to account for pretty much every penny I survived on in 2007– for both my husband and I (we attend the same school). Despite the fact they have on record that we took out the maximum to cover off-campus rent & living expenses, they can’t seem to figure out– without me going into ever single cent– how we lived.

    There’s only one person that processes all of the paperwork for approximately 30,000 students; last year, my husband’s didn’t get processed until mid-August, leaving us hanging without funds until mid-September (and we also had to tax out $5,000 more in loans because we missed out on need-based aid).

    Because we both have to fill out all these forms and prove all of this to them, both of our need-based aid goes out the window, because we don’t fit the bill for the typical need-based student. We simply don’t have any income (save for his SSI), versus the many students at our school who do have income but are under the poverty line (like us). Our case may be worse in that we have less money, but because of that, we have to prove more and end up getting screwed in the end.

  24. chatterboxwriting says:

    I work in higher education and the financial aid counselor above posted some great tips. Luckily, I don’t work in financial aid (I’d go nuts), but I know they have a lot of problems with students not getting things in on time, not completely filling out forms, etc.

    My problems with my college’s financial aid department stemmed from their lack of technology and communication at the time. When I started going there, there were about 900 students and we actually had DIAL UP Internet in the dorms. The campus offices weren’t much more advanced. Financial aid and student accounts never knew what they were doing in relation to each other, so you’d go to financial aid and they’d tell you that you were all set, that you were getting X amount of money, everything was signed, etc. A week later, you’d get a letter from student accounts telling you that you had to pay $4,500 the next day to avoid having the locks on your dorm room changed and being kicked out of school.

  25. chargernj says:

    I noticed alot of people saying that they don’t have to file taxes so why should they have to wait for their status to be verified by the IRS.

    Just file your taxes anyway. And you won’t have to wait so long. Even if your income is too low for you to have to file, do it anyway, that way we will be able to package your aid.

    We have a large caseload and we can’t be chasing down everyones information individually. You on the other hand only have a caseload of one person, yourself.

    So I don’t want to hear that we have to wait for the IRS. Where I work that isn’t the case, we even have a form for you to fill out that lets you check off that you aren’t required to file taxes, but it will ask that you provide some proof of what ever income you did have.

    If you lack income all together, then you will still have to prove how you supported yourself. If you lived with your parents or a generous friend/relative who let you stay with them for free we call it in-kind support, and there is a formula. Just talk to you counselor.

  26. Dal says:

    Fafsa for my family was a pain. I am a first generation college student, so my family was new to the whole process. We filed early to try and be sure we had everything in order. However, they had glitches with our PIN. After several talks with their support, we were told they finally resolved our pin issues. When we started getting my aid packages from several colleges, our estimated family contribution was sky high. My parents went back through our families finances and felt there was no way our contribution could be so high. They then reviewed it and found that they accidentally doubled it. Now I have to wait till the last minute to see which colleges I can afford and finally make a decision. Better late then never.

  27. Marce says:

    The new FAFSA for 2009-2010 comes out January 1, 2009. Great time for a reminder. Waiting until April to file your taxes and FAFSA is a great way to lose out on federal and state aid.

    For example, my school made priority deadline March 9: FAFSA in and all paperwork to award aid done by that date to have first chance at grants.

  28. Marce says:

    @chargernj:

    I’m also a financial aid worker. I agree 100% with what you say. Perhaps we should ask Consumerist to post about FERPA. (Do you work for my school or something?)

  29. Laurney says:

    I work in financial aid (like some of the above commenters) and I want to point out that you are misleading people about the deadline for a FAFSA. Yes the (federal) deadline for the FAFSA is June 30, OF NEXT YEAR. A 2008-2009 FAFSA can be filed anytime between January 1, 2008 and June 30, 2009. I cannot tell you how many students and parents try to tell me they can’t file because they have missed the deadline. Also, many schools do have priority deadlines (For 2008-2009 ours was March 1, 2008) but we still accept applications after that date, and people still get grant money after that date. We also look at the date a FAFSA was filed in determine institutional aid eligibility, NOT the date that you submit additional required documentation, like taxes and w-2s.