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Understanding College Financial Aid and FAFSA

FAFSA

Will you or your child be attending college in 2015? The government expects all college students and their families to contribute towards the costs of their education. However, the actual amount you and your family will be expected to contribute depends on your individual financial situation – and is what’s called your Expected Family Contribution (EFC).

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the form the U.S. Department of Education (ED) requires to determine your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The government conducts a “need analysis” based on financial information, such as income, assets, and other family information, which you (and your parents if you are a dependent student) will be asked to provide. The FAFSA is the application most colleges use to determine eligibility for federal, state, and college-sponsored financial aid, including grants, educational loans, and work-study programs. The FAFSA is a free online form found at https://fafsa.gov/  Beware of the many commercial fafsa sites ending in “ .com “. You do not need to pay a fee to complete a FAFSA form.

The 2015-16 FAFSA will be completed using information from your 2014 tax return. If your return has not yet been completed, estimated amounts may be used to fill out an initial FAFSA, and then a corrected FAFSA may be submitted later once the final return is filed. If your tax return has been completed and filed, you can use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool for FAFSA . In a few simple steps, most students and parents who filed a 2014 tax return can view and transfer their tax return information directly into their FAFSA.   Your application is examined by a federal processor and the results are sent by computer to the financial aid offices of the colleges you’ve chosen.

FAFSA Deadlines

FAFSA deadlines are set by federal and state agencies, as well as individual school financial aid offices, and vary widely. Some schools have deadlines as early as the second week in January! Additionally, applicants must pay particular attention to deadline specifics, as some refer to the date by which individual FAFSAs must be submitted (Transaction Receipt Date), while others refer to the date by which individual FAFSAs must be fully processed (completed by the federal processor, signed and made available to the school financial aid office).

Important Dates

For federal aid, submit your application as early as possible, but no earlier than January 1, 2015. While it is still possible to be considered for Federal Aid if your application is submitted at the official federal deadline of June 30, 2016, your college must have your correct, complete information by your last day of enrollment in the 2015-2016 school year AND for state or college aid, the FAFSA deadline may be as early as January 2015. You may also want to ask your college about its definition of an application deadline–whether it is the date the college receives your FAFSA, or the date your FAFSA is processed. In addition, your state or college may also require completion of additional forms. Click HERE for individual state FAFSA deadlines.

It Pays to Complete Your FAFSA Early!

No matter what your individual state or school filing deadline, when it comes to your FAFSA, the sooner you file after January 1st each year (the date that the federal processor begins accepting applications), the better!   Many types of financial aid (particularly need-based aid, including grants, loans and work-study programs) are limited and are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. Therefore, the sooner your FAFSA is fully processed and released to your school’s financial aid administrators, the better your chances of receiving consideration for the maximum amount of financial aid for which you may be eligible.  Click HERE for a video with more information about the FAFSA.

Hysjulien and Associates is pleased to assist our clients by providing a detailed, personalized FAFSA worksheet with the tax information your will need to complete your family’s FAFSA. We can help you with every step along the way and answer any questions you may have. Please call or email your Hysjulien and Associates tax professional if we may be of any assistance in this process.

 

 

February 16th, 2015

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