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FAFSA Help and Tips: From The Parent Of A High School Senior

I am  sharing my experiences as the mother of a high school senior preparing for college and completing the FAFSA form  with other parents and guardians that might be going through the same thing. My intention is to make it much easier and save you a lot of time by making it more manageable and sharing what I’ve learned from the process. Today I will share with you a few tips that will make the process easier.

1. Create a folder where you keep all tips and information from workshops, financial aid seminars and your high school guidance counselors as it relates to the FAFSA. You will probably get bits of information here and there from friends and family members who have completed it in the past as well as financial aid night at your school. If there was not a financial aid night at your school check neighboring schools.

2. Have your child make a list of the colleges that they have selected with their financial aid deadlines next to them. Do not wait until the federal deadline in June to apply it will be too late. Many of the colleges and universities base their awards on the FAFSA so you will need to go by their deadline. You actually do not want to wait until the deadline to apply; you want to apply as soon as possible. You can use your 2011 Tax Return. The reason why you want to apply as soon as possible is because you want to increase your chances of getting aid from the college and federal government which is given out on a first come first serve basis.

3. In addition to the financial aid deadline date for the college, you also need to know if  a CSS Profile is needed and the deadline for it, if it is needed. Not all schools require the CSS Profile, which stands for College Scholarship Service, it” is an online application that collects information  used by certain colleges and scholarship programs to award institutional aid funds.” This is another very important thing to know and file on time so that you have the highest probability of your child receiving all of the aid that they can get. So find out if your college requires it and get the code for it.  Your child can go into their College Board account and get this information it is under ” CSS/Financial Aid Profile.” It will give you directions and a list of schools and their codes.

4. Lastly you also want to be aware of your state deadlines for financial aid. They differ from state to state so be aware of when that is and write it down. Once you have successfully completed your FAFSA remember to immediately apply for your state’s aid. It should tell you that on the confirmation page.

So here’s a quick review in list form:

1. Create a FAFSA folder with tips and instructions on how to complete it. You can sign up for webinars on the FAFSA at the College Board site at http://www.collegeboard.org . Create an account here too for yourself even though your child has one so that you can be notified of any webinars on topics of interest.

2. Have your child create one list with colleges and their FAFSA codes, financial aid deadlines for the college and whether they require CSS Profile and the codes if they do. All of this should be on one sheet with the telephone numbers to both FAFSA help and CSS Profile help on the same page.

3. Immediately apply for state aid after you receive your confirmation.

Please come back and tomorrow for more tips and help on the FAFSA. Tomorrow I will cover the things that you need to have ready when you sit down to actually complete it. It is not as terrifying and nerve racking as some people make it out to be. You can do it! If I can do it so can you. For more information you can visit the  FAFSA site at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov . I’d love to hear from you, please feel free to comment in the reply space below. Feel free to share what you have learned from your experiences.