1) Fill Out A Practice FAFSA
A practice FAFSA is a great way for you to learn the ins and outs of the actual application. You can get an early start on the process by gathering your documents and filling out the FAFSA Worksheet and asking any questions that you may have beforehand.
2) Reduce Your Family’s Adjusted Gross Income
Generally speaking, the higher your family’s Adjusted Gross Income (AGI), the less financial aid for which you will be eligible. The AGI is calculated as Income – Adjustments, and therefore unless you want to decrease your income (not recommended), the best thing to do would be to increase your adjustments. There are tons of deductions that many people are unaware of, so get a good accountant or Financial Aid Planner to help you through the process.
3) Get Rid of All Your Liquid Assets (Intelligently!)
The FAFSA’s formula for determining your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) counts more weight for the most liquid assets in your family. Accordingly, it would be wise for you to minimize these liquid assets prior to filing your FAFSA. One way of doing this would be to give all of your money away (not recommended); however, a more intelligent way would be to shift your assets or pay off large debt balances (such as a mortgage).
4) Leave No Entry Blank
Fairly self-explanatory. Leave nothing blank. If the answer is $0 or is not applicable, make sure that you put in 0 in the blank.
5) Apply Early (January 1)
This is where we get the most push-back. People don’t seem to like the idea of spending New Years Day filing their FAFSA application (imagine that), but it’s truly a great idea. January 1st is typically the first day that the Government will let you file your FAFSA. Since lots of financial aid is given on a first-come-first-served basis, it only makes sense you get it submitted as early as possible.