If you have a college-bound teen or current college student, you probably already know filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is one of the best ways to apply for scholarships and grants to help cash flow that degree. And let’s be real, the FAFSA is already confusing enough on its own, so having to think about COVID-19 on top of that just adds to the stress.

But don’t worry. We’re about to break down what you and your kids need to know about the FAFSA this year:

1.      What to Know About FAFSA Deadlines

The FAFSA form has three deadlines: federal, state and school. Here’s the lowdown on each one.

  • Federal: To get financial aid for the 2019–2020 school year, the federal deadline is June 30, 2020. For the 2020–2021 school year, it’s June 30, 2021.
  • State: For some financial aid, like in-state scholarships and grants, deadlines vary by state. Certain states may be pushing back their deadlines, so check www.fafsa.gov to see how your state is handling it.
  • School: The schools your kids are going to, or applying for, usually have earlier FAFSA deadlines than the federal deadline. But just like the state deadlines, each school might be responding differently to the coronavirus and changing their deadlines as a result.

Bottom line is this: your kids should check with their school’s financial aid office and state guidelines to make sure they have their FAFSA forms turned in on time. And even if your kids have already missed the school and state deadlines, there’s still time to make the federal one!

2.      What to Know About FAFSA When Schools Are Closed

If the college or colleges on your kid’s list are currently closed, don’t stress. The U.S. Department of Education’s Central Processing System will still process your FAFSA info and send it to all the schools you list on the form. That way, your kids will still be able to get financial aid when schools do reopen. You can also check with each individual school to make sure they’re still processing FAFSA forms, and to learn more about their plans for reopening.

3.      What to Know About FAFSA When Your Income Changes

If you or your kids have lost work during this crazy time or your income has dropped a ton, know that you’re not alone. There are plans in place to help with those situations, and your child might be able to have their financial aid adjusted. Make sure you and your child both answer all the questions on the FAFSA form about income, and include any tax documents they ask for. Be sure to reach out to the schools your child is applying to after you’ve submitted the form, so you can talk through any changes in your finances.

Remember, your kids can get scholarships, grants and student loans by filling out the FAFSA. Scholarships and grants are great, but student loans can seriously hurt their future. Be sure they carefully read the fine print in their award letters before signing any kind of agreement. Paying cash for college isn’t easy, especially right now, but it can be done with the help of work study programs, scholarships, and other financial aid you can get through the FAFSA. Don’t take out student loans!

If you and your kids need more tips on filling out the FAFSA and graduating debt-free, I’ve got you covered with some free resources!

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