Four Critical Things You Need to Know About Filing the FAFSA

January 21, 2012

Money For College - Four Critical Things You Need to Know About Filing the FAFSA
by Dr. Kuni Beasley

The Free Application for Federal Financial Aid or FAFSA, is where most college funding starts and here is what you need to know about it:

1 -- Who actually processes the FAFSA? The people who do the ACT process the FAFSA. I guess some years ago when the SAT people and the ACT people decided to divide the college testing universe, Advanced Placement (AP), College Level Examination Program (CLEP), and a few other things were retained by the College Board, which does the SAT. The ACT people got the NCAA qualification process and the FAFSA. This is the simple version of how the universe was divided.

2 -- Who needs to file the FAFSA? The short answer -- EVERYBODY! I don't care if you won the lottery or your grandfather donated the money for the science building, you still need to file the FAFSA. Although the FAFSA results are used for Need-Based Aid, those seeking Merit-Based Aid (i.e., "scholarships") usually have to pass through the FAFSA process. Colleges have you do this even if you are getting an academic scholarship because for each scholarship dollar they give you, that's money they forfeit. To mitigate the money that are not getting from you because you are getting a "scholarship," they will see if there are other sources of money that you would be eligible for that could be applied towards the money they are forfeiting up to give you a "scholarship."

3. When do you need to file the FAFSA? The short answer is -- right after ball drops in Times Square. I tell the parents of my students to send in the FAFSA when they get back from the New Year's Eve Party. Seriously, the sooner, the better. The FAFSA requires tax information from the previous year, but I don't know anyone who has their taxes ready when the ball drops. It is best to get your taxes done early and get that data on the FAFSA. However, if you don't have the taxes done by, let's say, Valentine's Day, you can submit the FAFSA with estimated information and send an update later.

4. Where do I get the FAFSA? Online at The form is pretty straight forward and simple. However, millions of parents get "FAFSA Phobia," and seek assistance. There are many people out there who are willing to treat the "phobia," but be careful. A lot of these people can scam you. There is also a site to help you estimate your FAFSA results at I recommend you try the sites yourself first and if you still have the "phobia," get some reputable help. (Side note: check out my FAFSA guide. This guide covers the FAFSA line by line, and explains how to fill it out for your student's benefit. Login to view it.)

The FAFSA, Need-Based Aid, and the entire maze of college funding can be both confusing and intimidating. I hope this eased some of that for you.

Kuni Beasley, Ph. D., College Professor, High School Dean, and College Counselor.
No matter what I wrote above, it doesn't mean anything if you don't get into the college you want or have to go into debt up to your eyeballs to do so. Contact us to see how we can help 1-888-237-2087 ext. 2.

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