I follow a couple “paying for college” Facebook groups. Those groups are always hopping on October 1, otherwise known as FAFSA Day (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). I must have seen the same 10 questions asked a hundred times each. So I thought I would write a post answering those questions. That way everything you need to know, or at least most of it, will be in one spot.
The most commonly asked questions with the answers:
1. Do I have to fill out FAFSA if I know we won’t qualify?
– Most schools and many scholarships require FAFSA to be completed so you should probably just do it. FAFSA is also required for school loans.
2. The FAFSA application states “most men must register with Selective Service to receive Federal Aid.” Does my son have to be registered for the Selective Service to apply for FAFSA?
– If your son is 18 at the time of the application then yes, he must be registered. If he is not 18, he does not have to be registered at the time of application. Register here.
3. I created an ID for my child but it is now asking for the parent ID. What is that?
– Both the student and one parent must each have a FAFSA ID. The application will be filled out with the student’s ID. The parent ID is needed to electronically sign the application.
4. I’m not paying my child’s college tuition or my student lives on his own, why does he need my financial information?
– FAFSA doesn’t care what the living arrangement is or who is paying. A student is not considered independent until they are 24, married, both parents have deceased or they have their own child. There might be a few other circumstances that can be found on the FAFSA website.
5. What is EFC?
– At the end of the application, you will see your EFC, which means expected family contribution.
6. My EFC is about 1/3 of our income, is this normal?
– Unfortunately, yes.
7. Doesn’t FAFSA consider medical bills, mortgage or other factors when calculating the EFC.
– No. However, you can contact the school financial aid office and inform them of any special circumstances such as a loss of income. They may or may not take that into consideration.
8. The application only lets us list 10 potential schools, what if my child has applied to more?
– You can list 10 schools during the application process. Start by listing an in-state public university first. Some states require a state school to be listed first to consider the student for state grants. You can add more schools later. Just remember that most schools require an application fee and that can add up quickly.
9. Should I wait to fill out FAFSA until my child has chosen a school?
– No. It is recommended to fill FAFSA out in October, the year before your child will attend college.
10. Do I have to fill FAFSA out on October 1?
– No, FAFSA opens for the following school year on October 1 but it does not have to be done that day. In fact, I personally suggest waiting about a week because the system is often overloaded the first few days.
11. How long will it take to fill out FAFSA?
– It should take less than an hour. I have done it so many times now that I can finish in about 30 minutes.
12. What do I need to fill out FAFSA?
– You will need yours and your child’s social security numbers, federal income tax returns, W-2s, records of untaxed income, bank statements, records of investments and your FAFSA ID. I use the IRS data retrieval tool, which cuts downs on how much I must input and time that it takes. This pulls all of my tax information directly from the IRS.
13. My child’s dad and I are divorced. Which one’s information should be included on FAFSA?
– The parent who has the child 51% of the time or more is the parent who should be listed on FAFSA.
I encourage you to follow Paying for College 101 on Facebook. This group has no affiliation with the Kenton County Public Library but I find it very helpful. What other questions or tips do you have about FAFSA?
– Written by Gina Stegner, public relations coordinator and parent of five. She has been through the FAFSA process with three children and starting it now with another. All information in this post is based on her own experience.