Wait a minute. It’s not January, is it? No, its September and no, your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you. We usually contribute a FAFSA article every year for the January issue of Virginia Woman magazine. Why are we so early this year? Although it’s no longer “breaking news,” it was announced in the spring of last year the “New FAFSA” can now be filed starting as early as October 1st of your child’s senior year instead of January 1st as in years past. Are you ready?
Why the big change? One reason is to make the process less confusing. Let’s look at what we used to do. You would file an estimated FAFSA in January, filing the final FAFSA several months later after you have filed your taxes, and then waiting several more weeks to sync your FAFSA and your federal tax return with the IRS Data Retrieval tool to then send the FINAL confirmed data the schools wanted…are you dizzy yet??
Starting in October of 2016 you will file the “New FAFSA” with the “Prior/ Prior Year” federal tax return. Which means for the incoming college class of 2017/18 you will file your child’s FAFSA using data from your (hopefully) already filed 2015 federal tax return. You will continue to use the current asset data on the day you file the FAFSA. Side bar, make sure you have a paper trail/statements of your accounts in the event of an audit.
Since you are using a prior/prior already filed tax return, there will no longer be a 3-week delay to sync up the IRS and the FAFSA Data Retrieval Tool. You can complete all of this in one sitting and submit the FAFSA to the colleges your child is applying to. Are you ready?
The purpose of all of this is so you can find out sooner rather than later what the college is going to offer for a Financial Aid Award and whether the school will be affordable or not. Reality check: do you really think filing three months earlier is going to make that much of a difference? What you should do is to already know ahead of time what is affordable, or not, what schools will be a good fit, or not, what schools will have the major you need, or not, WAY before you file the FAFSA and WAY before your son or daughter falls in love with a school that won’t be a good fit. That way you won’t waste valuable time, effort and financial resources applying to schools you can’t afford.
Another teeny weeny little wrinkle to all of this? Will your child have their list of colleges ready by October 1st? There’s no sense in submitting a FAFSA if you don’t have the schools to submit it to. There’s no sense to submit a FAFSA to schools you aren’t ready to submit applications to since they can’t make you a Financial Aid Award without your application. Are you and your child ready?
If you are NOT ready, overwhelmed, frustrated, concerned and stressed out, we understand and are here to help. If you have a college bound senior your clock is ticking. Call us today.
Now my biggest problem is what will I write about in January!
By: Luanne Lee, CCPRS
Your College Planning Coach