By: Jodi Golden
Director of the Indiana Education Savings Authority
January 27, 2014
FAFSA? What in the world does that mean, you ask? Well, for those families that have a child nearing college, you’re probably familiar with this infamous acronym. FAFSA stands for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This is one of the most important documents a prospective college student may ever have to submit. This document helps determine your eligibility for federal and state student financial aid.
The Federal Student Aid program provides more than $150 billion in federal grants, loans and work study programs each year to more than 15 million students. If you do not submit a FAFSA, you are unable to receive any part of that $150 billion, so it’s critical that you complete it on time.
As you can probably guess by its complicated name, the FAFSA can be a somewhat complex document for some families to fill out. Below are just a few of the basic “frequently asked questions” regarding the FAFSA.
Who should file the FAFSA
Any student planning to attend college this fall, including high school seniors, should complete the FAFSA. Current college students who may need financial assistance should submit a FAFSA. Even students who aren’t sure they will enroll this fall should fill this out, just in case they do decide to attend.
Is there a deadline to submit the FAFSA?
The deadline each year is March 10.Check with your college or program to make sure they don’t have an earlier deadline.
What information do I need to complete the FAFSA?
- Student’s Social Security number
- Student’s Driver’s License Number
- Student’s and parent’s most recent federal tax returns (IRS forms 1040, 1040EZ or 1040A
- Records of money earned, including W-2 forms and recent bank statements
- If the student or parents are not U.S. citizens, alien registration numbers or permanent resident cards.
Where can I get help filling out the FAFSA?
There are typically a number of resources in your local community that can help you complete the FAFSA. You can also check out https://fafsa.ed.gov/help.htm for more information.
There’s a common myth about 529 plans and the FAFSA – that a 529 plan may hurt or decrease your eligibility for financial aid. This is just not true. The FAFSA and financial aid formulas are largely income based, not asset based. In fact, when looking at funds saved for college through a 529 plan, the federal government only looks at 5.6% of the assets in your 529 plan. And a large number of state aid programs don’t count 529 assets in their formulas at all. So bottom line, having planned and prepared early is not going to limit your chances of receiving financial aid.
There’s still time to complete the form. Go to fafsa.ed.gov and get started soon!