First time with FAFSA? Here are some quick tips to get you started

If, like the majority of single moms, you are the custodial parent of a child who’s soon heading for college, get ready to FAFSA.

To get any cash for college – grants, loans, work-study, or scholarships – you have to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, the FAFSA.

For first-timers, the process can seem daunting – but it’s really easier than they make it seem. Time-consuming, yes. Difficult, not really, as long as you’re ready.

And if you’re wondering whether you should bother filling it out, the answer is YES. Even it you don’t expect to qualify for any aid. Even if you don’t plan to take out any loans. Most schools expect it, and many scholarship applications demand it.

You can start filling out your FAFSA for the 2018-2019 school year on October 1, 2017. Here are 5 tips to make the experience as painless as possible.

  1. Get your ID numbers right away. Before you can get started on the FAFSA, you and your child will both need ID numbers – your FSAIDs. This takes about 5-10 minutes (each), and asks for basic information like full name and Social Security number. Once you apply, it takes up to 3 days to get your FSAID number back. And then you can hit the ground running. Apply for your FSAID here. Here’s a quick video that walks you through the FSAID process: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K7ihhGk8mCY&feature=youtu.be
  2. Fill out your FAFSA ASAP. A lot of the funding is first-come, first-served. The earlier you throw your information into the mix, the better chance you have of scoring college cash and in-demand work-study dollars. Click here to start your FAFSA.
  3. Have your documents ready and handy. The FAFSA forms ask for a lot of information, so get it together before you start. It’ll take you about 30 minutes to fill out the forms if you’re prepared – and much longer if you have to go digging for numbers. As the custodial parent, only your financial information counts – and that includes any alimony or child support you receive.
  4. Incomplete is better than not at all. Fill out your FAFSA even if you don’t have all the answers. This is one time that a partially filled out form counts.
  5. Don’t worry if your situation isn’t “neat.” The FAFSA and most schools’ financial aid offices know that plenty of families don’t fit into a standard mold. You can get information overrides for many situations – all it takes is some documentation.

The most important thing here is to fill in as much information as you can as soon as you can, so you can get the most possible cash for college.

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