Top Ten FAFSA Application Tips For Maximum Financial Aid

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Getting the most aid from the government is - or should be - the top priority for college and college-bound students now that 2005 has begun. http://www.FAFSAapplication.com presents the top ten FAFSA application tips to help you get the maximum amount of financial aid you can.

Getting the most aid from the government is - or should be - the top priority for college and college-bound students now that 2005 has begun. http://www.FAFSAapplication.com presents the top ten FAFSA application tips to help you get the maximum amount of financial aid you can.

First and foremost, file a FAFSA. You may qualify for federal financial aid that you didn't even know about. Don't make any assumptions about how much aid you will receive. Just go ahead and file. And even if you think you've got your college expenses covered, filing the FAFSA allows you to keep your options open, just in case you decide to apply for federal and state funding.

Second, remember that most financial aid formulae calculate what you are eligible for based on what assets you and your family have. 35 percent of students' savings and assets are expected to be contributed toward their education (compared to less than 6 percent of parents' assets). Some parents choose to shift assets in their children's name to their own name, or to the name of a grandparent. If you are considering this option, use extreme caution. Check with a financial advisor before shifting any assets and be very careful if advised to shift any assets out of your immediate family, as you can get into a major legal tangle.

Third, file a FAFSA as soon as possible. Grants like the Pell Grant are issued on a first-come, first-serve basis, which means that the sooner you file your FAFSA, the better your chances are of receiving such aid if you are eligible. The sooner you submit yours, the better your chances are of getting "exhaustible" aid, which means scholarships and grants. Once those awards are given out, they're gone!

Fourth, fill out your FAFSA based on estimates in order to get it in sooner. You do not have to wait on a completed tax return to be able to submit the FAFSA. You may check the appropriate box indicating that you are estimating your income and then provide your best estimate based on check stubs, W-2 forms, or other income documentation. If your financial situation is similar to last year, use last year's tax return as a basis for your estimation. Your federal aid is calculated based on what income you have to contribute; the government's goal is to give out aid to as many students as possible, while your goal is the get the maximum amount of aid you can. The two are somewhat incompatible - so estimate as carefully as you can, and when in doubt, guess low rather than high.

Fifth, don't leave anything blank. If an answer is zero, indicate "0". If a question doesn't apply, indicate "0". If you're unsure of a question, answer "0". Blank answers are one of the top mistakes on a FAFSA that gets it tossed out immediately - along with any chances of getting federal financial aid. If you remember only one tip from this article, remember that on the FAFSA, answering zero is your friend, and blank answers are your deadliest enemy.

Sixth, make sure you are using correct information! Have your school's correct federal school code. Check with your financial aid office, or use our online database of more than 14,000 schools at http://www.FAFSAapplication.com. Use your name as it appears on your Social Security card. Using any other name or name variation (i.e. nicknames, short names like Chris instead of Christopher) than what is on file can delay or deny your FAFSA. Other documents you should have available include driver's license, current bank statement and mortgage information, completed 2003 federal income tax returns, including W-2s and 1099s forms, accurate estimate of your 2004 income, records of untaxed income, such as Social Security income, welfare, AFDC (Aid for Dependent Children), and veterans' benefits, and records of your family's assets and investments, not including your primary residence.

Seventh, if the parents/guardians are divorced, legally separated, or otherwise using custody arrangements, the non-custodian parent's income may be excluded from the family income calculations on the FAFSA. This can significantly change the aid you are awarded!

Eighth, turn life's lemons into financial aid lemonade. Bad investments - like that portfolio full of Enron stock - can be sold off at a loss and then counted against your income. This will increase your federal aid eligibility and also provide a handy tax break when you fill out your IRS 1040.

Ninth, consider using a professional preparation service such as http://www.FAFSAapplication.com to get your FAFSA reviewed, error-checked, and submitted. A good rule of thumb is that if you use a professional tax preparation service, you should probably also use a professional FAFSA preparation service as well.

Tenth, make copies of everything. We can't begin to tell you how many people call us each year saying they've filed paperwork but can't remember who they filed it with or what happened to it. Make copies of everything, and save them in a safe location!

No matter how you file your FAFSA, student financial aid is becoming tighter and tighter, so it's important to get your FAFSA submitted as fast as possible, as accurately as possible.

Contact Customer Service at http://www.FAFSAapplication.com for more information or to obtain professional FAFSA preparation. Students, parents, and families seeking additional FAFSA information, including a more detailed review of these ten tips, can visit http://www.FAFSAapplication.com today.

http://www.FAFSAapplication.com is a service of the Edvisors Network, a multi-national education services company offering students options for managing the entire education lifecycle, from getting into their college of choice to financing their education and beyond. The Edvisors Network is based in Quincy, Massachusetts, with offices in Quincy and London, England. Visit them on the web at http://www.EdvisorsNetwork.com for more information.

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Christopher Penn
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