Get Ready to File the 2010-11 FAFSA
As the year 2009 comes to an end, parents of high school students in the class of 2010 should start getting prepared to file financial aid forms. The early bird definitely gets the financial aid worm. While the FAFSA worksheet advises families to wait until they have filed their taxes to complete the FAFSA, this puts families at a definite disadvantage. One dean of admissions used this analogy when describing financial aid: “Financial aid is like a pot of soup. The first couple of ladles will be full, but when you get to the end, if the soup is gone, you can’t have any.” Do not needlessly put yourself at the back of the financial aid line. You should start to file your FAFSA as early in the new year as possible. While you cannot file the form until after January 1, here are the things you should be doing now:
1. Apply for pin numbers (www.pin.ed.gov). These will serve as the online signature for the student and the parent (you each need your own pin number). If you are a parent and you have older children who have previously filed a FAFSA, you will use the same pin number. The pin number is a 4 digit number, and now they allow you to choose the number. I recommend choosing either a common pin number, or the last four digits of your social security number. While you can retrieve the pin number if you forget it, you need to enter the answer to a challenge question and it is case sensitive. So, if you can’t remember the exact answer within three tries you will be locked out.
2. Print out the FAFSA on the Web Worksheet , and start filling in as much as you can. Since it is based on the 2009 tax information, and your 2009 taxes won’t be done for a while, you should estimate (there is a question that asks if the data is estimated or from a completed tax form). If your 2009 information will be similar to your 2008 tax information, you can just use the 2008 tax return to estimate numbers. Your assets should be current as of the day you file. If your income will be significantly different, follow our next tip:
3. Save your last few pay check stubs of 2009. Use the Year To Date income information to estimate your W-2 income. The way I recommend preparing to fill in your FAFSA is to get together your 2008 taxes and your 2009 paycheck stubs. Go to an tax calculator, such as the one on www.hrblock.com. Use your paycheck stubs to enter all your income information, then use your 2008 tax return for questions such as itemized deductions, interest income, and dividend income. When you are done, it will give you an estimate of your AGI, as well as your 2009 income tax.
Fill out the worksheet as completely as possible so you are ready to fill out your FAFSA on the web application, www.fafsa.ed.gov, as soon as possible after January 1. If you can, look at some EFC (Expected Family Contribution) Calculators and estimate what the schools are going to expect you to pay, so you can know now. That will give you the opportunity to make some changes before filing, if it is going to be possible to lower your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). We have our own calculator at CollegeTreasure.com. We will also be putting videos of our Free FAFSA days online. In our free FAFSA days we will walk families step by step through the filing of the FAFSA form. Also, look in the CollegeTreasure.com resource area for our coming video on filling out the FAFSA on the Web Worksheet and common mistakes that cost people money.
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