Reasons to Apply for FAFSA Early
Completing financial forms can be a hassle, so some people put off filling them out for as long as possible, but that's a bad idea in some cases. When it comes to finishing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) document for yourself or your student, there are many persuasive reasons to get it done sooner rather than later.
You must file the FAFSA application if you are a college student or you have a college student in the family. The title is slightly misleading because the FAFSA is not just required for federal aid. It is also required for students who wish to apply for state grant programs or scholarships offered by some colleges and universities.
The filing period for the FAFSA application runs from January 1 to June 30. Some colleges and states have different deadlines, however, with some deadlines hitting as early as February 1.
Early Birds Can Get More
A student is likely to get more financial aid if the application is filed early in the year. This is critical in some states because financial aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. That means that the sooner you file, the more grants, work-study funds and federal loans may be available. In fact, students filing early can get as much as twice the grant money as students who file late, according to David Levy, editor of Edvisors, an online resource for families planning for college.
No Need to Wait for Tax Returns
Some people drag their feet when it comes to filing FAFSA applications because they have not filed their federal and state tax returns yet. You should not let this stop you. You can report estimated information on the FAFSA instead, basing your estimates on your W-2 forms, 1099 statements, your final pay stubs from last year and account statements.
Review your prior years' tax returns to ensure that you include all sources of your income. Although you can correct inaccuracies later, it makes sense to use solid income estimates. Otherwise, your student might see a significant change in the amount of financial aid she can receive when you update your tax information.
Don't Wait for Admittance Letters
Waiting to receive letters of admission to college is another common reason for delaying. However, you don't need to wait for them and you shouldn't hold off. Students are not limited to listing just one college to receive their FAFSA information when they fill out their forms, nor are they required to list only colleges where they have been accepted. You can select up to 10 colleges to receive your financial information, regardless of whether you've been accepted there.
Don't worry about a college rejecting you because you didn't place it first on your list. The Department of Education has stopped giving colleges access to students' college lists to prevent that very thing from happening.