The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) comes out tomorrow and I bet you’re all tingly with anticipation! 🙂
Pearl files hundreds of financial aid forms each year, so I asked her to give me her “Top 5” mistakes she’s seen, to help anyone planning to file their own forms.
WARNING: even though these may seem trivial or silly, any one of ‘em could “cost” you thousands – or tens of thousands of dollars of lost eligibility.
Even one tiny mistake can mean the difference between telling your child, “Sorry, I can’t afford to send you,” vs. “YES! You can go to your “Dream College!”
Here’s what Pearl rattled off:
1. Confusing parent and student sections. It’s easy to forget which section you’re “in” while in the throes of the FAFSA. Make sure you pay attention and put information where it belongs!
2. Confusing parent and student assets. Of course this is closely related to Mistake 1., but actually is a separate mistake. Sometimes parents think things belong to their kids, when they are really parent-owned assets.
Child assets penalize you 400% more in the financial aid formulas, so this can be one major screw up that loses you money you otherwise deserve!
3. Value of business. FAFSA asks business owners to value their businesses. But there are specific guidelines about how to do this. Most businesses are worth zero – read the directions!
4. Retirement accounts. FAFSA asks for the value of your investments. But read the fine print before you grab your green eye shade and bank statements and start adding things up.
Retirement accounts are NOT part of this equation (there are three other exemptions too). Pearl and I have each seen otherwise sophisticated, smart parents lose amounts like $9,000 – per year – in eligibility thanks to this gaffe.
5. Biographical errors. Dates of birth, social security numbers, middle initials, etc. Mess any of these items up, you could create delays that remove you from getting full and fair consideration by the financial aid office. Or you could trigger a “Verification” – the financial aid equivalent of an audit – which almost always results in a reduction in your financial aid award.
Of course these tips merely scratch the surface. After all, there are 1,100 pages of regulations behind the FAFSA – the “easy” form! (The CSS Profile is another kettle of fish!)
That’s why we created a series of training videos that cover how to complete the financial aid forms, strategies to improve your eligibility and how to negotiate with a college.
If you are confused or scared that you’re going to screw up the forms…
Or you don’t even know what forms your colleges want, when they have to be filed, or what you must do AFTER they’re sent in..
Check out the Instant College Funding System. I think you’ll appreciate the two bonuses I’ve included and the guarantee.
A Happy and a Healthy New Year!
P.S. Here’s the link one more time. I’ll keep the bonuses available as long as I can, but they’re first-come, first-served.