Let’s face it, government forms can be intimidating, confusing and leave the uninitiated a little overwhelmed. However, the FAFSA form is relatively simple to fill out. If you’ve filed your taxes before, many of the questions will be familiar to you. Questions like, “What was your gross income?” can be copied from your 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ by referring back to your forms.
To make the process even easier, if you’ve filed your taxes electronically more than three weeks prior, your tax information from the IRS can be transferred directly into your FAFSA application. What could be easier? Look for this option after you log into your account and begin your application process with FAFSA.
What if you haven’t filed your taxes yet?
It’s a common myth that you have to do your taxes before your FAFSA. The problem, as you may be aware, is that financial aid deadlines for some institutions can be February-March 1st or earlier. It’s not a matter of procrastination by tax filers; they simply don’t have all the information yet to file! So, what do you do?
The simple solution is that you estimate your figures for FAFSA. Can you do this? Yes! The Department of Education understands that colleges request financial information in advance. They know it’s unrealistic to complete your taxes in the time required. So, estimating is completely acceptable.
Two words of caution
First, if you estimate your financial information you’ll need to correct your FAFSA at a later date, when you have completed your taxes. Some may forget this step, thinking their work on financial aid is done. However, the option of estimating your finances is to meet college aid deadlines, not to avoid giving exact numbers. So, write yourself a sticky note, or put it on the calendar, that you need to file a corrected FAFSA after April 15th.
Second, estimating your figures on your FAFSA does increase the likelihood that you’ll be selected for verification on your numbers provided. Again, this is not a concern unless your estimates are grossly off. An estimate by its very nature may be slightly off, but it should be close.
How can I estimate information?
The easiest method is to take your paycheck stubs and add them up for the year. If your last paycheck stub for the calendar year includes cumulative (total) figures, those can be used as a basis of your estimate. If you have received your W-2’s from your employer(s), they too can be used for your estimate. In any case, don’t believe the myth that you can’t fill out your FAFSA until your taxes are done and miss out on money that colleges have already awarded to early applicants.
For more information on the financial aid process, download the FREE manual for financial aid at www.maxfinaid.com. Yes, free! Don’t waste another dime on information you can get for free!