Now is the time to file financial aid application

By Susan Pohorski

It is time to fill out the FAFSA. What’s the FAFSA you say? The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is the next step after applying for college admission.

For seven years our family has dutifully completed this important task for our two daughters. Now that the youngest has graduated, we are free of the FAFSA. It should be easier for you, since some new technology makes the form simpler than in the past.

Believe me, it is all worth it when you receive the financial aid offer letter from your child's potential college. Financial aid really helped determine the college choice for my younger daughter.

Collect your identification and financial information, and set aside some time to complete the document that will determine your “estimated family contribution.” No matter what type of college your child will attend, you should complete the FAFSA every year. The application is required for grants, scholarships, loans, and work-study.

There are three ways to file the FAFSA:

  • Apply online
  • Complete a PDF document and mail it or
  • Request a paper FAFSA by calling 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243).

For those just starting the college adventure there is help. College Goal Wisconsin offers free information and assistance at many sites throughout the state on Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 22-23, and on Wednesday evening Feb. 26.

Remember, the application is free. One year my husband just entered FAFSA into a search engine and clicked on the top link. Before I knew it, he had entered a credit card number and was charged about $48. Don’t make the same mistake. Go directly to the Federal Student Aid site.

You will receive a personal identification number (PIN) for your student and for you as a parent. Don’t lose this number. You will use it again next year and the year after that, until your child finishes his or her education.

Deadlines vary so check with the financial aid administrator at the college your child is interested in attending.  You can file early and then modify your application when your income tax return has been filed. Don’t put this off, however, since some colleges have limits to scholarship aid and awards go fast.

For more information on financial aid for college visit these sites: http://studentaid.ed.gov/
http://www.witechcolleges.org/costs/financial_aid.php