High school seniors and their families have a lot of work to do until summer, outside of applying to schools.
There is also the matter of financial aid, a process that isn’t always a simple one. Joseph Remiasz, outreach specialist at Illinois Student Assistance Commission, offered a few tips to help get people started.
1) Fill out the FAFSA, Even If You Might Not Need It
The number one document students need to fill out for financial aid at most post-secondary institutions is the FAFSA. This form is the application for funds from the Federal Government, the State Government and the actual school the student will be attending. Even if families do not think they will be eligible for need-based grants, most schools want students to fill it out in order to get their merit-based scholarships, and Federal Loans.
2) The Earlier the Better
Many families are unsure about the best time to apply. The FAFSA is made available Jan. 1. Because some of the money is on a first come-first serve basis, it is vital that a student and their family apply as soon as possible. Even if a family does not complete their taxes before the end of January, they should start and submit the FAFSA using the previous year's tax information just so the form can be filled out and processed as soon as possible. The family can then log back into the website when they do complete their taxes, and make corrections.
3) For Divorced Families
When it comes to those who may have a divorce or separation in their families, the student will report only the parent with whom they live with more than 50% of the time. Also, if that parent is remarried, the step-parents information must also be reported.
Pay attention to deadlines. Many schools have priority deadlines, by which the student must fill out their FAFSA.
5) Fill it Out Online to Save Time
The fastest and easiest way to fill out the form is through the website FAFSA.GOV. Information you will need to fill out the FAFSA includes social security numbers, dates of birth, records of income, assets, checking and savings balances, and basic demographic information. Both the student and one parent must sign the form electronically through their PIN number, which you can apply for and use as you are filling out the form.
Editors Note: held a FAFSA clinic Saturday, helping over 70 families get their forms in. For more information on future classes, clinics and services, check out the teen center’s website and Facebook page.