Cook Wealth Management Group

It Pays to File the FAFSA

saving for collegeAll students interested in financial aid for college must file a FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. It is used to verify eligibility for federal and state aid, as well as university-sponsored aid, like work-study programs or grants, and in some cases, scholarships. (Contact the financial aid office at each college of interest for their requirements since some states and colleges require other applications in addition to the FAFSA.)

About 8 million students don’t bother to apply for financial aid because of the intimidating forms. With a reported $170 billion1 in financial aid available, applying for student aid correctly and on time is worthwhile. But federal aid runs out quickly; filing the FAFSA is not just a mundane requirement – it’s a competitive race to the loan finish line.

it pays to file early

Much of financial aid is offered first come, first serve. Deadlines vary, so it’s best to file your FAFSA as soon as possible after January 1st to avoid any processing complications or delays. Some colleges have financial aid filing deadlines as early as mid January. Expedite the process by filing online at; the 2010 “FAFSAFaster” is easier to complete, with fewer questions and more online help.2

it pays to provide all the facts

If you have more than one child in college, your children may be entitled to more aid. Did you receive extra income for a short period – a very large bonus, or overtime pay for a one-time project? Clearly explain special circumstances like these in order to maximize your award amount. (If you are displeased with the amount received, you may submit a written appeal with proof of non-recurring pay increase or supplemental expenses.)

it pays to have a financial advisor

If filing for the fall 2010 semester, your income for the 2009 calendar year will be examined; your assets, however, will be reviewed, as of the filing date – typically 2-3 months into the current year. Consult your financial advisor in advance to make sure your assets accurately reflect your financial state. Your advisor may recommend paying off consumer debt or contributing more to a 529 plan to make the most of your money and have a better chance at getting financial aid.3