If You Plan To Go To College Next Year, Fill Out Your FAFSA This Weekend

Image courtesy of Eric Gjerde

Each year high school graduates preparing for college leave billions of dollars on the table by failing to fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). A new initiative by the Department of Education aims to change that this year, by starting the process earlier and making it easier to fill out. So here’s your warning: FAFSA season starts Saturday. 

Sure, most students have only been in school for a little more than a month, but it’s apparently never to early to plan ahead, you know, in order to minimize the mountains of debt you’re likely to take on to attend college.

FAFSA determines whether an applicant is eligible for subsidized federal loans and whether they can get access to grants that can reduce how much you need to borrow to pay for your education.

But that’s only possible if you actually fill out the form, which is available starting Oct. 1 on the Dept. of Education website. 

The Wall Street Journal offered a few tips for those preparing to fill out their FAFSA this weekend:

1.) Do it now — Don’t wait, the money you could received in grants isn’t going to wait around for you.

The form has different deadlines depending on your state and which college the money will be used to pay for (see this PDF for a state-by-state breakdown of deadlines), but it’s always a good idea to get the FAFSA completed as soon as possible.

2.) Use the new tool — The Department now allows families to base their FAFSA form on “prior-prior year” income, meaning you likely have all the information you need on hand.

Under the previous system, the FAFSA application process began in January and couldn’t be completed until tax forms could be retrieved from the Internal Revenue Service.

To make things even easier, the Dept. of Education streamlined the once daunting task by utilizing earlier tax information. Families will now be able to use a tool that directly retrieves their tax information directly from the IRS.

By using the tool, the Dept. of Education estimates the time needed to fill out a FAFSA form will decrease from one hour to about 20 minutes.

[via The Wall Street Journal]