Financial aid season 2013-2014 is underway. Hopefully most of you are in the process of gathering necessary information to apply for college aid for the next schoolyear right now. While prepping for FAFSA submission, be sure to steer clear of various financial aid pitfalls that may harm your chances of getting maximum aid. Below, these financial aid pitfalls are broken up into problems to avoid, plus their corresponding fixes.
The Problem: Procrastination
At Go Financial Aid, we stress time and time again to be on top of your game when applying for aid. The worst thing an applicant can do is to put off FAFSA completion until the last minute. Procrastination may have several consequences. For one, financial aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. So, if you wait, your various federal loan and grant amounts approved by your school may be lower. Another thing is that individual schools have applications apart from the one designated by FAFSA. Therefore, waiting until the end of June may mean that you missed your college's deadline in April...No aid for you!
The Fix: Swift Action
To avoid the procrastination pitfalls, get on the financial aid bandwagon early. Submitting the FAFSA now, for instance, will guarantee that more funds will be available and that no school deadlines have been missed (many deadlines don't come around until March or later). Even if your taxes are not yet completed, you may submit the FAFSA with estimated tax information. Once taxes are done, update the info with tthe IRS data retrieval tool.
The Problem: Incomplete FAFSA
We know that the FAFSA can be daunting and certainly difficult to understand at times. However, this isn't like taking a test in high school where you can just leave an answer blank if you don't know it. They ask for a reason. Failing to answer everything on the form may delay the processing of your application (and therefore how soon you get money from your school).
The Fix: Do the Digging and Seek Assistance
Certainly no one wants to go on a treasure hunt for tax info or other personal information. Unfortunately, you have to. Figure out where all of your necessary documentation is in your home (i.e. tax forms, Social Security cards, etc.) and put everything together. If the issue is more about understanding the application process and questions, try attending a financial aid workshop or enlisting the services of a financial aid consultant.
The Problem: Over-sharing
The FAFSA requires us to divulge so much personal information. How much did you make last year? What amount did you and your parents pay in taxes? Is there anyone else in the household attending school? How the heck are you to know how much sharing is too much? Well, it sort of comes down to the difference between the FAFSA and the CSS Profile. See the fix below to understand more about this.
The Fix: Know Where to Draw the Line
Oversharing on the FAFSA comes in the form of providing financial information they don't really need and which will ultimately lower the amount of aid you are eligible for. If you (or your parents) include personal assets, i.e. retirement savings or pricey belongings into your overall financial well-being, you will do yourself a disservice. This is where the difference between FAFSA and CSS PRofile comes in: the FAFSA doesn't require asset information like this, the CSS Profile does. Remember this and you're golden.
Applying for financial aid is tough, but doable. Avoiding these and other FAFSA mistakes will put applicants in better positions to receive the necessary financial aid for the year. Need more help? Go FInancial Aid has the solutions for all your financial aid questions!