Jan 20, 2021 Stacy Crooks

Filing the FAFSA - It's really not that hard


We have all heard horror stories about students and families trying to complete the dreaded FAFSA. Well, as someone who has completed thousands, that’s right, thousands of FAFSA forms over the last ten years, it is not nearly as hard as legend has it. And NO, I don’t have thousands of children of my own, but I do help thousands of families file the FAFSA each year.

As with many things that present as overwhelming, if we break It down into smaller, more manageable tasks, it is not nearly so scary.

Too Many Questions – Too Much Time to Complete

Based on experience, you can break down completing and submitting the FAFSA into 3 basic parts.   Estimate about an average of 40 minutes to complete. (Longer if you type with just your index finder).

Part 1: Student Information: no better expert than you on this subject. Easy peasy.  Tip:  Students have of schools you are applying to prepared to complete the FAFSA so you do not have to go back and make updates to have your financial aid information sent to the schools you are interested in. 

Part 2: Parent (Contributor) Information – Same as above, a parent is certainly their own expert and can initiate the FAFSA form to provide this information or be invited by their student who began the FAFSA process to provide their demographic and asset information.

Part 3: Federal Tax Information:  Easier now than before.  All students and contributors must provide consent and approval to have their federal tax information transferred directly into the FAFSA form via direct data exchange with the IRS. This federal tax information 
will be used to determine the student’s eligibility for federal student aid. If a student or required contributor doesn’t provide consent and approval, the SAI will not be calculated, and the student will not be eligible for federal student aid.

Additional FAFSA Myths

Myth: I am sure our family income will not qualify for any aid.

Truth: Keep in mind that there are two types of aid. Need-based aid is determined by mathematical formulas based on various student and family financial data provided on the FAFSA. Not everyone receives need-based aid. The second type of aid is called Self Help Aid, which can come in the form of Work Study and Federal Direct Student Loans, which traditionally have lower rates than private student loans, along with no payments due while attending school and several other benefits not typically offered by private lenders. FAFSA must be completed to be eligible for these loans.

Myth: I didn’t get any need-based aid last year.  Why file again?

Truth: Circumstances may have changed that will affect the result of the financial formula, therefore changing your eligibility status in a given year for need-based aid.  Even if you are not eligible for need-based aid, you want to be eligible for the lowest-cost borrowing options if you need a student loan to help pay college expenses.  Eligibility for low-cost student loans requires filing FAFSA every year.  

Myth: My info is the same as last year, so I don’t need a new FAFSA.

Truth: A FAFSA renewal at minimum is required.  This entails reviewing information previously submitted for accuracy, and the Direct Data Exchange tool will update your most recent federal tax data quickly and easily.  But the truth remains – you need to fill out a new FAFSA each year.

Myth: I can’t afford to submit the FAFSA.

Truth: You should never have to pay to submit the FAFSA. If you see any indication otherwise, you’re not on a sanctioned website – studentaid.gov is the only website through which you should submit the FAFSA. There are free services available to help you complete the form if you want assistance, such as the College Planning Center.

For more information on financial aid and FAFSA, download our free Financial Aid 101 Guide.


Published by Stacy Crooks January 20, 2021