It’s FAFSA Time – Don’t Leave Money on the Table

It’s FAFSA Time – Don’t Leave Money on the Table

FAFSA FearNow is the time to start filling out the FAFSA. **ALL** high school seniors and their parents should be filling the FAFSA out. This application is used to determine eligibility for federal grants, loans and work-study funds from the federal government. In addition, many colleges and states use FAFSA information when determining eligibility for institutional and state financial aid programs. A number of other scholarships require the FAFSA as well.

It’s incredibly worth it to apply, but you won’t get any money if you don’t fill out the form. Here’s some advice when filing for financial aid:

1) Fill out the FAFSA ASAP
Financial aid is in limited supply. The earlier you apply; the better your chances of receiving the financial aid that you are qualified to receive. Although the FAFSA deadline for many schools for the 2020-21 academic year is not until June 30, 2021, a desired college’s deadline may be sooner. Chances of collecting the maximum amount of FAFSA financial aid lessen as more time goes by. Many schools work on a first come, first serve basis when it comes to financial aid. Dates vary by college for their priority filing deadlines. The FAFSA must be filed by a school’s deadline for a student to be considered for the maximum possible financial aid that they may be eligible for.

2) Get your PIN
All who are applying for FAFSA will need a PIN from the Department of Education in order to electronically sign the FAFSA. To obtain a PIN go to

3) Finish Taxes Early
Most of the information FAFSA requires comes directly from a family’s tax returns. If the 2020 tax forms are not completed for whatever reason before some schools’ February deadline, parents can use last year’s tax returns and pay stubs from December 2019 to estimate their earnings.  

Save time and reduce error by using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. It is available to student applicants and parents who have filed their 2014 taxes. The tool allows you to automatically transfer the required tax information to the FAFSA and will be on Feb. 2nd.

Click here for more information on the IRS Data Retrieval Tool

If an estimate is used, the form will need to be updated once the 2014 taxes have been submitted. We encourage you to do this because this action will increase your chances of receiving the most money.  The IRS Data Retrieval Tool can be used to make a FASFA correction.

4) Do Not Report Retirement Assets
Do not include retirement assessments on the FAFSA. This can only ruin a child’s chances of receiving financial aid. The form does not ask about assets from 401(k) plans, Individual Retirement Account or 403(b) plans-only non-retirement assets. Give them what they ask for and no more.

5) Report Any Unusual Information 
Higher Ed institutions and the government understand that financial situations can unexpectedly change. Because of that, families have the ability to appeal to a college to adjust their financial aid after submitting the FAFSA. This means if a parent is


Debbie Schwartz is former financial services executive and founder of Road2College and the Paying For College 101 Facebook group. She's dedicated to providing families with trustworthy information about college admissions and paying for college. With data, tools and access to experts she's helping families become educated consumers of higher ed.