Applying for financial aid is like playing musical chairs. You don’t want to be the last one standing. Here are a few tips to be the first there, first served:
- Make Sure Taxes Are Done Right: When you apply for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you’ll be expected to present your most recent tax returns. It’s critical that these returns are completed correctly. For the 2019-2020 college year, this would be the 2017 return. Keep in mind, the application reviewers want hard data, not estimates. Therefore, if you generally file an extension, it would be best to wrap your taxes up as quickly as possible, before the first FAFSA filing date on October 1, 2018.
- Lower Your Cash Balance: The amount of assets you have will be considered when determining how much financial aid your student might be rewarded. If you have considerable cash on hand, you might pay off any outstanding loans to avoid reporting this amount on your FAFSA form. This is also a good time to consult with a financial planner regarding other options to reduce your on-hand cash and maximize the amount of aid.
- Have Your Paperwork Ready: Start gathering the information you’ll need to apply now. This includes Social Security numbers for you and your student, updated financial statements, any records for untaxed income (e.g. child support), driver’s licenses, and of course, tax returns.
Remember, depending on the school, the earlier you apply, the better your chances of receiving more aid.