Prepare Now for Federal Financial Aid Filing

FAFSA Online
Amid the holiday rush of tree-trimming, card-addressing and cookie-making, parents of college bound students need to add "FASFA form-completing" to their long December to-do list. Anyone with a student entering, or continuing, college in the fall of 2013 should fill out a Free Application for Student Financial Aid (FAFSA) on or about January 1.

What's that? You say you're not planning to fill out the form because your family won't qualify for government college aid? Please take a moment and check out these common myths concerning financial aid.

Okay, hopefully you're now convinced that filling out the FAFSA is a good idea. In order to make your job easier on January 1, here's a list of what you should gather now:

  • Social security number for you and your child
  • Driver’s license number for you and your child
  • Tax forms for you and your child  (you can use estimated figures now and adjust them later)
  • Records of untaxed income, such as payments to tax-deferred savings plan for you and your child
  • Current bank statements for you and your child
  • Information about any business that you or your child owns, as well as  investment mortgage information, business and/or farm records, and any stock, bond and other investment records
  • A list of colleges and universities (up to 10) to receive your FAFSA information
You should also apply for a Personal Identification Number (PIN), which will allow you to sign the FAFSA electronically and to access a number of federal financial aid websites. Do this now because if there are any errors in a name or date of birth at the Social Security Administration, a PIN can't be issued until those errors are corrected.

You can take a look at last year's FAFSA worksheet to get an idea of the information that is requested.

Remember, you do need to complete a FASFA each year of college, although it's easier after the first time. There are some first-come, first-served aid programs, which is why you want to submit your FAFSA as close to January 1 as possible.

One of my favorite college strategists, Lynn O'Shaughnessy, offers some great advice in "Seven Tips to Avoid FAFSA Errors". And, don't hesitate to call the FAFSA hotline (800-4-FED-AID) with any questions about the process.

If you've got a student bound for college next fall, put FASFA at the top of your New Year's resolution list!