FAFSA for beginners

If you’re a senior in high school and hoping to get financial aid for college, start the New Year off right and make it a priority to get your FAFSA Click here to learn about third-party website links completed in January.

The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is your first step in securing money for college, including grants and loans. The FAFSA is used to apply for other forms of aid, such as those from the state, and those deadlines Click here to learn about third-party website links vary, so it’s in your best interest to get the FAFSA completed as soon as possible.

We recommend that you fill out the FAFSA even if you don’t think you’ll qualify for aid. Unsubsidized federal student loans are not based on financial need, so almost everyone qualifies for these loans.

It’s probably easiest to complete the FAFSA online and sign it electronically using a PIN Click here to learn about third-party website links. However, if you prefer, you can get a paper FAFSA from your high school guidance counselor.

When you’re getting ready to fill out the FAFSA, plan ahead so you have all the right documents Click here to learn about third-party website links ready. Among the documents you’ll need are your and your parents 2008 tax documents — an incentive to get those completed as soon as possible as well!

Be prepared to spend about two hours completing the application this first time. In future years, it won’t take as long. If you start the application online, you don’t have to complete it all at once. You can save your work and return to it later if need be.

Got any questions about financial aid? Ask us!

Caroline Hanson

About Caroline Hanson

Caroline is a communications consultant for Wells Fargo Education Financial Services. Although she has been known to forget her own ZIP code, she has memorized the lyrics to every bad 1970s pop song ever written. Unfortunately, she also loves karaoke. Caroline spends her spare time at Target®. She also likes biking slowly and has participated in RAGBRAI. Caroline is a graduate of Iowa State University and has worked in journalism and public relations for the past 14 years. She lives in Iowa with her husband and has a 19-year-old stepdaughter and 2-year-old son.
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8 Responses to FAFSA for beginners

  1. GAIL says:


  2. Dorothy says:

    I have $60,000 in CD’s earmarked for a son’s Bar Mitzvah and a car. The CD’s mature next year. I have to fill out the FAFSA before that. Anyway I can exclude that income from the FAFSA or CSS profile since it is not for my daughter to use for college.

    • Caroline Hanson says:

      @Dorothy – The FAFSA requires that you report the net worth of certain investments–including certificates of deposit–at their current value, regardless of whether that investment is earmarked to pay for college.

  3. Liz says:

    Q91 on the 2009-2010 FAFSA says the parents’ investments include Coverdell savings accounts. Since our daughter’s Coverdell is in a CD in her name, wouldn’t that make it her investment, not ours?

    • Caroline Hanson says:

      Hi Liz – I consulted with one of our investment product managers here at Wells Fargo, and he said that as long as your daughter is still considered a dependent for tax purposes, Coverdell assets in her name will be considered the parent’s assets when completing the FAFSA. This is to your benefit since a student’s assets can reduce his or her aid package by up to 20% vs. a parent’s assets, which can reduce the aid package by 5.6% However, if your daughter is no longer considered a dependent, then the Coverdell would be considered her (the student’s) asset when completing the FAFSA. This was clarified as part of the College Cost Reduction Act of 2007.

  4. Liz says:

    Our daughter had less than $100 income in 2009. Does she need to file a 2009 income tax return anyway to prove the zero income when she fills out the FAFSA?

  5. cara says:

    I have an 18 month old whom I receive child support for. I want to set up some kind of savings (account, Cd, or bond) for her so this money can go towards a car or college when the time comes. My problem is, I am currently in school and rely on financial aid to get me through. Is there a way I can save this money for her without affecting my financial aid or hers when the time comes? Thank you for any information you are able to give me.

The Student LoanDown

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