Finance Friday: Completing the FAFSA


    March is the month when deadlines for the FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, come up. Almost all students can qualify for some form of federal financial aid, but they must complete the FAFSA by their school's and state's designated deadline in order to be eligible and get the most aid they can. Do you know what to do in order to correctly compete this most-important form?

    This year, the FAFSA (which can historically be complex to fill out and complete) has been made easier, with many redundant questions removed and clearer instructions. U.S. News has a good article on these changes, how they affected the FAFSA, and how to avoid some of the most common mistakes.

    Graduate students are eligible for Graduate Stafford Loans and Graduate PLUS Loans, both of which can considerably lessen the immediate out-of-pocket expense for students attending law school. Gradloans.com has great information and breakdowns on each of these loans: Graduate Stafford Loans and Graduate PLUS Loans.

    A few tips for completing your FAFSA correctly and on time:

    Don't leave the FAFSA until the last minute. The FAFSA determines your financial aid eligibility for all forms of federal financial aid. It is a very important document; failing to fill it out and submit it on time can severely affect your ability to pay for law school. Complete it as soon as the appropriate application is available from FAFSA website, and send it in well ahead of the deadlines. That way, if there are any errors or mistakes on the form, you can be notified of them by your school and will have time to complete them.

    1. Many of the fields of the FAFSA will be the same as the fields of your tax forms, in particular the 1040 Form. It will be much easier for you to complete the FAFSA if you have already filed that year's taxes. However, even if you haven't, you can still complete the FAFSA--just make sure you check the box that specifies that you have not yet completed that year's taxes.
    2. Get some help when completing the FAFSA. Ask your tax professional, your undergraduate financial aid office, or the financial aid office of the law school you are considering attending to help you and look over the form once it's completed. Getting a second set of eyes to look over your form can save you from making costly mistakes.

    FAFSA and financial aid resources:

      • U.S. News and World Report Education: Beat The FAFSA video series: Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3

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