The FAFSA: That wasn’t so bad after all

FAFSA completion
Carol here, reporting from the other side of the FAFSA application process. OK, that’s not entirely true because I submitted the FAFSA (or, in our case, three of them!) based on estimates and projections, so I will have to re-visit the form after we file our 2007 taxes. But I do believe that the majority of the work has been completed.

And you know what? It really wasn’t as painful as I’d feared. Kinda like something else that us 40 and 50-somethings need to do (call your doctor!), the preparation turned out to be the hardest part, with the procedure going fairly easily and taking much less time and being less painful than I’d originally anticipated.

The hardest part of the process turned out to be the gathering of materials – especially the kids’ financial information, as it required that they (gasp!) actually find some paycheck stubs amid the dirty clothes and laundry in their rooms and the fast food bags in their cars. It’s a no-brainer to me that you don’t trash paycheck stubs, but for a 17-year-old, once that check has been cashed, the stub becomes a piece of the past. Or a napkin.

So, in spite of Coke stains and a few rips, I was able to salvage the kids’ paychecks and once they estimated their gross yearly wages and salary, I was able estimate the income they’d make on the accounts in their name to come up with their piece of the application.

Our piece wasn’t so straight-forward, but thanks to a marvelous financial planner – who we met because she presented the financial aid planning night at the kids’ high school – we were able to determine with confidence what we had to declare and what we didn’t. We did have to declare, for example, our savings accounts and CDs. But we were not required to declare out IRAs and 401Ks. Once I’d gathered all the information and passed it by our financial planner for review, it was a simple matter of filling in a bunch of boxes on the very clear and straight-forward form.

And the best part of the whole process – at least for us – was that, once I filled out the FAFSA for one kid, I had the option of having the parents’ information on all subsequent forms already filled out. That alone was a huge time saver!

So take it from me – the biggest chicken of them all when it comes to the FAFSA – the preparation is far worse than the actual “procedure,” and if you’re putting it off, hoping it’ll just go away, don’t put it off for another day. Get moving!

And while you’re at it, you might want to schedule that other procedure, too.


FAFSA Topics