It’s hard to believe that it is almost that time of year again. Beginning January 1st, 2012 you will be able to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
This financial aid application will be used to qualify you for financial aid for the upcoming Fall semester in August 2012. Yes, it is 8 months in advance, and yes you should do it as soon as possible!
The Department of Education has recently released a sneak peak version of the 2012-2013 FAFSA Application. You cannot actually submit this worksheet, but you can begin working on the draft version today, so you will be fully prepared to submit the real document when it becomes available on January 1st.
Procrastinating on completing your FAFSA could mean the difference in thousands of dollars in college financial aid. For example, the FAFSA deadline for many colleges is February 15th. If you wait until January 1st to begin gathering the documents needed, you will likely miss out on this deadline. If you miss this deadline you will miss the priority date for your college’s scholarships and grants program and lose any potential financial aid you qualified for through your school.
Even though this worksheet is available, you do not want to submit a paper copy of the 2012-2013 FAFSA Worksheet. The electronic application at http://fafsa.gov will be available beginning January 1st, and that is where you should submit your application. Submitting a paper FASFA could take 5-6 weeks to even get to your school, whereas a FAFSA submitted on the web will take a maximum of 48 hours.
There is also a really neat tool that is new this year for the FAFSA called IRS data retrieval. If you have successfully submitted your IRS tax forms, then you can “retrieve” that data through the FAFSA form. When this data is retrieved it will automatically populate the FAFSA form so you do not have to compare line by line figures. This one change alone could save you hours in completing your FAFSA.
The Department of Education may not be perfect, but they are trying very hard to make the FAFSA completion process less of a barrier to applying for Financial Aid. The best way to be prepared is to know what to expect. Print out a copy of this 2012-2013 FAFSA worksheet, and look it over to know exactly what to expect when you sit down to complete your FAFSA in a few short weeks.