It’s that time of year again, and if it’s your first time, then you are in for a treat. (NOT!!!)
If you want your kid to be first in line when it comes to the money, then you need to know all the steps involved, and the what not to do as well.
Here are a few how-to-do’s when it comes to getting the loans that you need.
First of all, FAFSA is www.fafsa.ed.gov NOT www.fafsa.com.
Every question you have can be answered for free so you do not need to pay money to get those questions answered. Contrary to what they tell you, using that service will not put you ahead of the pack, because there are several steps after you fill out the initial forms and those require you to act on several emails and go to several other sights.
When you go to FAFSA for the first time, you actually have to fill out a form as the student and the parent separately.
It’s not a good idea to have your son or daughter do it because if anything is filled out incorrectly the entire process will come to a screeching halt. You also don’t want your kids seeing your income, which the forms require.
When you go to set up the account, there are many pages but the answers are pretty cut and dry. Most people get stuck on the tax part, which is when I get calls for confirmation of certain line items.
Honestly the questions refer to the exact line item on the return so if you did your own return then you should not have a problem. If you are filling this out but have not filed your return, be as close as possible, and then go back into the system and correct it later.
Once you have filled everything in, you need to check your emails.
You will get quite a few updating you on the process, so read them carefully. The next step will guide you to www.studentloans.gov.
Nowadays people tend to scan emails, but that is not recommended. Read the steps to your email carefully because there are several types of loans.
The first is your kid’s loan that they are fully responsible for. The most they can get is $5775 and if they qualify for free money they don’t have to pay it back but if you as their parents make enough money, then your kid will have to pay this back with interest after they graduate, or six months after quitting school, if that does happen.
The second type of loan is Parent Plus, which allows you to borrow more money for your child’s education, but this loan is on you. Be very careful here because there are high loan origination fees and interest here.
The first year I did this, knowing that I had a check coming the next month, and even though I paid it in full 30 days later, I got slapped with a ridiculous fee of close to $2000!
There are several things you have to do for the final completion of your loans.
There is a counseling class online with questions to answer to make sure you are clear on the rules, and there are several other disclosures that need to be filed – all of which show up on the front page of your www.studentloans.gov log in.
Once all of these are done, you will get confirmation of your loans!
Now make sure you go back to FAFSA and add all the schools that you are interested in so that FAFSA can communicate with those schools.
But wait! You have to go to each of those schools and fill out their paperwork on their financial page. Each school is different, however there is always a page for administration to apply for the school.
The thing is, that’s not the same thing as applying for financial aid at that school. If you register for school, but don’t apply for financial aid, then FAFSA will not be able to communicate with the school.
This could delay your check by months, and cause you to have to prepay, and if you don’t have the funds, the school will drop your kids classes!
During administration, there are so many last minute filers that it’s difficult to get anyone on the phone.
It’s critical that you apply for all of this now if you child is going to college in the fall.
One final note for the kids.
FAFSA will not tolerate your child dropping out of class or failing. They will be put on probation and then suspension and will not receive a check.
You can only “play” the system so long, and then they start drafting your account or garnishing your wages. The IRS will keep any refunds you or your child has coming if you do not pay outstanding loans.
The great news is that once you are in the system, the subsequent years are super easy, unless you change schools.
The FAFSA part is still a breeze, but applying at the new school and transferring documents is a bit of work, but still doable now that most things are automated.
For scholarship opportunities go to www.scholarsedge.com amongst many others.
The daughter of one of my good friends went four full years on multiple small scholarships that she won by entering as many contests as she could on this website.