Completing the FAFSA is the single most critical step a family can take in trying to access financial aid for their student. The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is sort of like the gatekeeper for all need-based financial aid that you will receive. In years past the FAFSA used to be a strictly paper process. Fortunately though, within the past decade, the electronic version has been introduced and is utilized heavily by families and college students across the nation. And yes.. for some odd reason, there are still people that insist on doing the paper version of the FAFSA. (These are probably the same folks that also enjoy filling out the 1040 long form for their taxes as well!)
This year marks a momentous time for the electronic FAFSA in the aspect that it has now adopted a dynamic process in which it limits the number of questions that have to be completed by families based upon their answers to other key questions. The Department of Education is referring to this new technology as “skip-logic”. However, I think the “SMART” Fafsa would be more fitting (Single Most Appropriate use of Relative Technology). I have not trademarked the phrase, so the Department of Education is still welcome to make use of it! 😉
This new “skip-logic” technology is estimated to save the average person from answering about 22 questions. Since the paper version of the FAFSA is boasting 107 questions, any reduction is certainly welcomed. The overall goal of making the FAFSA easier to complete is to promote more families and students to apply for federal financial aid and make the funds more accessible to those that are in need.
Even though it is in the testing phases, the Department of Education is planning on rolling out another improvement to the FAFSA next year(January 2011) that will allow applicants to automatically pre -populate their federal tax information in the electronic version of the FAFSA form. I will be sure to keep you posted as this develops.
If you have not completed your FAFSA, now is definitely the time. You can do so at www.fafsa.ed.gov This worksheet is provided by the Department of Education to help you pull together all the information you will need prior to doing the Fafsa online.