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Here’s what you need to know about the FAFSA!

It is that time of year again! The 2020-2021 FAFSA and CSS Profile opens on Tuesday, October 1.  The FAFSA ApplicationsFAFSA is required to be completed by any student and parent who intends to attend college in the Fall of 2020 and will need money to pay for college.  Listed below are suggestions and facts that will help you navigate this process.

  1. All colleges and universities require submission of the FAFSA for need-based aid consideration.  For current high school students or transfer students expecting to attend college next year, the 2020-2021 FAFSA can be accessed and submitted at beginning October 1.
  2. About 150 colleges and universities also require submission of the CSS Profile.  That list of colleges can be found here, but it is always best to verify with the college itself:
  3. The CSS profile can be accessed and submitted at:  https://cssprofile.collegeboard.orgbeginning October 1.
  4. The deadline to submit these forms varies college to college. However, I strongly recommend that you apply as early in October as possible. It is necessary to check each college’s website or financial aid office to verify the deadline for each.  Missing these deadlines can seriously jeopardize your child’s eligibility for financial aid.
  5. For those planning to apply during ED (early decision) or EA (early actions) rounds, many colleges have a November 1 or November 15 financial aid deadline.  Know your child’s deadlines. There is a connection between when you apply to college and when you complete the FAFSA.
  6. These forms will ask detailed questions about your 2018 tax return.  Be sure to have those returns handy.  Also, make sure you have submitted and processed your 2018 tax return prior to beginning these forms.

Here is what you need to properly begin the FAFSA:

  1. The FAFSA belongs to the student, although many parents complete the form on their child’s behalf.  To begin the FAFSA, the student must first create their own FSA ID (Federal Student Aid Identification Number).  This ID is an electronic fingerprint associated with one person and one email address.  Any person who needs to access a student’s FAFSA will require their own.  Create your FSA ID here:
  2. Parents need to cosign the FAFSA for their minor children and will therefore need to create their own FSA ID as well.
  3. When beginning the FAFSA, it is best to select the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) in order to automatically populate many of the answer fields. Selecting the DRT will unfortunately shield the numbers for the filer’s view, although colleges will see these numbers.  Not doing so will often trigger a verification request from the financial aid office, requiring submission of an official tax transcript, and possibly delaying admission decisions.

Here is who should seriously consider filing the FAFSA and the CSS Profile:

  1. Anyone wanting to receive need-based aid who believes they may qualify
  2. Anyone who thinks they might require need-based financial aid at any point during their child’s undergraduate career.  Many colleges will not consider a financial aid application in the future, or until the junior year, from any student who did not previously submit the FAFSA.
  3. Anyone who will have two or more children in college at the same time because the threshold for need-based eligibility is significantly lower.
  4. Anyone applying for merit aid at institutions that require the FAFSA or CSS Profile for consideration for such awards.  Check on each college’s website for this requirement, because sometimes it is not stated in the college application.

Do you have questions about college affordability, FAFSA or CSS Profile?  I can help.  Contact me at 240-285-1920 or