Beat the FAFSA Deadline? Check!

We got the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) filled out for my son yesterday, beating the “financial aid goes early” deadline of Feb. 14th we were given in the financial aid presentation for Arizona state colleges by a week. (You can actually apply anytime between January 1st and June 30th — see the student aid deadlines page for more information.)

At any rate the process was surprisingly painless, since the site walked us through common questions. I was allowed to input estimates for our 2010 taxes (which was great because there’s no way we could possibly have them done this early). We just need to go back in later and revise them with our final numbers.

I also learned a surprising thing: you don’t have to count retirement funds as assets for financial aid purposes. So, yet another reason to sock away money for retirement!

I don’t actually think my son is likely to qualify for financial aid (at least not grants) but his school urged everyone to fill it out, even if they don’t believe they will qualify, so I figured we’d give it a shot. Worst case is I’ve lost a little time collecting and inputting information. I do know though that schools use it as part of the process of awarding scholarships, so that’s another potential benefit.

So one more thing down in the countdown to college for my son. Now he just needs to fill out a few more scholarship applications…


  • The protection for retirement and business assets is definitely a great reason to save toward retirement/start a business either for yourself or for your kids.

    • Hm, it said to include the value of business checking accounts, etc., but I guess maybe other business assets might be excluded? Like machinery or furniture?

  • Kim

    Colleges insist on a FAFSA even if you don’t qualify and then try to get these kids to take on additional school loan debt. Watch carefully how much is offered, and see what it actually costs. Students can be given up to 500.00 more a month than they need to live. But the catch is they have to pay it back!. I am sending my third through next year and our FASFA was filled out weeks ago. At most state school first come first serve. Congrats on getting him off to college.
    Side note: Start thinking of what is needed to set up dorm or small apartment. Start looking now. This set up process is expensive and if you try to do it when every one else is all the good used stuff is gone. My 3rd daughter is set to go down to a shower curtain. We were burned badly on the first, the second was easier, but I am well armed for the last!

    • Well, I’m sure not signing for him to take out loans, so there’s that :)

      He could actually live at home, as we live close to the university (and several colleges.) I’m starting to suspect that an apartment with friends is what appeals to him though…

  • I actually wrote an article a few months back about this

    I basically said that the last thing you should do is save for college because things like home equity (in your primary residence) and retirement accounts don’t actually count as assets.

    I always filed my FAFSA as soon as I could. I think it helped me a lot. It also gave me extra time to haggle with the financial aid office at school. They usually would kick in a few extra bucks every year. Good Luck to you!

    • Did you get grants or scholarships based on your FAFSA? And nice article. Sounds like that’s another reason to pay off your house too, since a paid off house = equity, and money in the bank = money they think you should use to pay for college.

  • Thanks for this article! My daughter is a junior this year so we won’t be doing the FAFSA this year, but when we went to the planning meeting a couple of weeks ago, they mentioned the final deadlines, but not the “early” stuff.

    They did mention that EVERYONE should fill out a FAFSA though. A friend’s daughter went to visit at the Ole Miss campus and their financial aid department was telling them that post-Katrina, students that had not previously qualified for grants due to income were a HUGE leg up in getting qualified for some of the Katrina related education grants because they had already filled out the FAFSA.

    • Yeah, it doesn’t hurt anything to apply. The financial aid counselor at my son’s school said you can even apply January 1st with your best estimate, and then just go back in and fill in your final numbers once your taxes are actually complete.