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Blaine Blontz

College Financial Aid Forms: 5 Tips to Get Ahead This Holiday Break

The holidays are approaching, and so are financial aid deadlines for families with seniors in high school. Make it a resolution to get ahead in your preparation for financial aid forms before the new year. Here are four tips to help you do so.

Lookup your financial aid deadlines.

The first thing to do is determine deadlines set by schools for financial aid applications. While we’ve already passed some Early Action and Early Decision deadlines, Regular Admission deadlines are generally after the new year.

Identify the required financial aid forms.

In general, families applying for financial aid will either need to complete the FAFSA or the CSS Profile. You can assume that all schools will at minimum require the FAFSA, which is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Beyond the FAFSA, some schools also require the CSS Profile, which digs deeper than the FAFSA. While some schools require their own unique financial aid form (Princeton for example), most will require either the FAFSA or the FAFSA and the CSS Profile.

The first step in the financial aid application process is determining which forms you need to complete. Again, assuming all schools require the FAFSA, you can use this link (https://profileonline.collegeboard.org/prf/PXRemotePartInstitutionServlet/PXRemotePartInstitutionServlet.srv) to view the list of schools that require the CSS Profile.

Gather your financial information.

The type of financial aid application required will determine what information you’ll need to gather. Again, the CSS Profile will dig deeper and asks additional questions beyond the FAFSA, so there could be even further legwork and preparation required for that form. In general, here’s what financial information you’ll want to have handy if you are completing these forms:

– 2015 taxes (parent and student if applicable)
– 2015 W-2 forms
– 2015 1099s
– Current total of parent savings/checking accounts
– Current total of parent non-retirement investments
– Current total of parent retirement investments
– Current total of student savings/checking accounts
– Current total of student non-retirement investments

For the CSS Profile specifically it will also be good to have financial information available related to any properties owned, including primary residence, as well as business information if either parent is self employed.

Complete financial aid forms.

If you’ve completed each of the above steps and still have time on your hands there is one more thing that can be done prior to ringing in the new year. For the first time, applying families can submit both the FAFSA and the CSS Profile prior to Jan. 1.

You can start and stop both forms, as they each allow you to save your progress. The FAFSA is significantly shorter than the CSS Profile, and the federal application process can be expedited even more with the opportunity to transfer tax information directly from the IRS.

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About Blaine Blontz

Blaine Blontz is a financial aid consultant with Financial Aid Coach. Financial Aid Coach navigates families through the financial aid process with the goal of saving time and money. You can read more from Blaine at www.financialaidcoach.com, and be sure to follow Financial Aid Coach on Facebook and Twitter.

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