Monthly Features

The FAFSA Wants to Know My Neck Size?

OK, so we used this title to get your attention. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) does not ask your neck size.  If you are a football player a university may be interested, but that is for other reasons.

The National Center for College Costs conducts FAFSA Days each February at several schools.  We have staff available to answer questions and interpret the results of the FAFSA once the family has its Expected Family Contribution (EFC).  This feature article will address some of the questions families who attend the FAFSA Day were not expecting.   INDIANA RESIDENTS MUST SUBMIT THE FAFSA BETWEEN JANUARY 1, 2015 AND MARCH 10, 2015 TO RECEIVE A STATE GRANT IF THEY ARE ELIGIBLE FOR ONE.   Some colleges or universities may have earlier FAFSA submission dates for possible additional aid. Check the website or call the financial aid office to see if your school has an earlier submission date.  

 Now for those questions you were not expecting:

  • I thought completing the FAFSA was free?  You must go to http://www.fafsa.gov. This is the official FREE website to complete the FAFSA.  There are other websites that charge a fee to complete the FAFSA—some charge as much as $79 and trick you with their websites (such as www.fafsa.com).  They will ask you the same questions and complete the FAFSA for you, FOR A FEE.  If you have to answer the questions anyway, why not go to the official website and complete the FAFSA for free?
  • The FAFSA has deadlines listed for each state, but what if I am going to an out of state school?  You must submit the FAFSA by the deadline listed for your state of residence; it does not matter where you plan to attend college.  Every year we get calls the day after the deadline; DO NOT MISS YOUR STATE DEADLINE!  The calls we receive from families who have missed the state deadline and need financial aid are the most painful we receive.  In most instances they have missed out on financial aid they would have received.  These students may have to take out additional loans or risk being able to attend college at all.
  • I am not a U.S. Citizen or permanent resident. I know I cannot currently receive financial aid from the federal government, so why should I complete a FAFSA?  Most colleges will require you to complete the FAFSA to be eligible for their own scholarships.  The college may have other suggestions to help with your funding.  Without your financial information they won’t know you need help with the expenses to attend college.
  • Why do they ask if my son has registered with the Selective Service?  Most male students must register with Selective Service to receive federal aid.  If your son has not registered you are given the option to have him registered while completing the FAFSA. By answering Register Me, the student gives Selective Service permission to register him. If the student believes that he is not required to be registered, he must call the Selective Service office at 1-847-688-6888 for information regarding exemptions, or access the Selective Service Web site at www.sss.gov.
  • What is a work-study job?  A work-study job is financial aid the student earns while working specific jobs, usually on campus.  Work-study income does not diminish the financial aid a student may be eligible for in the subsequent year.  The work-study job may be in a campus office, food service or other job on campus.  Most schools have limited work-study jobs available. If you answer “no,” you will not be considered for this opportunity. Work-study jobs can build your resume, give you additional people for a recommendation and may lead you to future employers.  We recommend you answer “yes” so you keep this option open. You can always decline the job at a later date.  If you answer “no” you will never know what opportunity you may have missed.
  • Can I complete my FAFSA before my parents file their tax return?  You can complete the FAFSA with good estimates of your income and taxes paid.  When asked about your tax return you can answer, “I will file but have not yet completed my return.”  This will give you the opportunity to submit the information to the financial aid office and get a preliminary financial aid award.  You must go back and complete the FAFSA with actual numbers from your tax return once it is completed or you can use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to transfer your information to the FAFSA electronically. For Indiana students the FAFSA must be SUBMITTED by March 10. For parents who submitted with income estimates the corrections must be made by May 15.
  • I am not married on the day I file the FAFSA but expect to be married before I start college.  You must report your marital status as of the date you file the FAFSA. 
  • My parent, who I live with, was not married last year but has recently remarried, do I have to report my stepparent financial information?  If you have a stepparent on the day you file the FAFSA their financial information must be reported on the FAFSA.  There are no exceptions.  Filing taxes separately, pre-nuptial agreements or divorce documents do not change this: stepparent financial information must be reported on the FAFSA.
  • I filed a 1040 and the FAFSA wants to know if I was eligible to file a 1040ez or 1040A?  How do I know if I could file these tax forms?  In general, a person is eligible to file a 1040A or 1040EZ if he/she makes less than $100,000, does not itemize deductions, does not receive income from his/her own business or farm and does not receive alimony.  Still not sure? You may need to contact your tax preparer. 
  • The FAFSA asks if I expect to live on campus?  What if I am not sure?  Why do they need to know now?  You will receive a financial aid award from the universities you have listed on the FAFSA.  This will include everything for the “Cost of Attendance.”  Your financial aid award will include your costs for living on campus if that is your indication.  Just because you answer yes on the FAFSA, this is not a binding contract.  This allows the college to create a financial aid award with your expected expenses if you plan to live on campus.  You can decline living on campus later, although that may change your financial aid, too. If you want to, talk to the college about what things look like financially with both options.

These are just a few of the questions we address with families.  When you complete the FAFSA you may stumble upon more questions you were not expecting.  You can call the FAFSA Hotline, 1-800-433-3243, or do a live chat. Go to, www.fafsa.gov, then click on the help button in the top bar, then click on contact us. There you will find an option for a live chat to get additional help with the FAFSA.  You can also attend one of the many FAFSA Days in February that will be happening across Indiana. To find one near you, keep an eye on our calendar of events on the Indiana College Costs Estimator website.

Related Feature Articles and Web Resources

 Web Resources:

The Indiana College Costs Estimator Frequently Asked Questions Page

Federal Student Aid Website

Indiana Division of Student Financial Aid

Related Feature Articles:

The FAFSA Process

Annual FAFSA FAQs: 2014

Same-Sex Parenting and the FAFSA

 



Publication Date: January 2015

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