The FAFSA provides a preview of boring, adult financial forms one must fill out every year. While I still haven’t done my own taxes, referring to my parent’s taxes hints at a future one-sided relationship with numbers; in the wake of smartphones, math and numbers really weren’t unavoidable.
However, filling out the FAFSA is not difficult. It’s a pleasantly easy, though boring affair. This year was my fourth time filling out the FAFSA, and I got it done by myself in around 20 minutes. The first time I did it, I got help from CollegeBound, a college readiness program. I brought my parents’ taxes with me and they went through filling out the FAFSA with us step by step, telling us which tax line corresponded to which question number. They even gave us tips for how to maximise the money you’re given, such as checking that you’ll be doing work study, even if you’re not sure. Familiarity is what will help you fill out the form with more and more ease every year, as the questions remain the same. The most difficult part would be getting your parents to get their taxes done early.
Being a first-generation student presents a unique challenge in this process, as parents may not be any help with you in the process. I filled out the form myself, and only referred to my parents for questions about shares or investments (which are easy to answer now, since I know my parents don’t have any.) Colleges offer FAFSA Q&A sessions and workshops on how to fill it out. If you still struggle with filling out the FAFSA, these would be ideal resources.
If you attend a private school, you may also have to fill out the CSS profile, which is like the FAFSA, but a more thorough assessment of your finances. Turning in both as early as possible is ideal, I’ve heard, as that will aid in in receiving more money. I once turned in the CSS profile really late– July late. I had to write an appeal to receive aid because I had turned in my CSS profile so late. Don’t do that.