Melissa Brock

Melissa Brock

Writer & Blogger

My name is Melissa and I’m a longtime admission professional, personal finance writer, editor  and parent of two (very!) busy kiddos. I couldn’t make it all happen without my husband, Steve.

I hatched my site because I’ve heard so many head-scratching questions from parents. I’ve journeyed in the footsteps of hundreds of families, trekked to dozens of college fairs and even weighed the (billions?) of college savings options for my own two kiddos.

Do You Need to Fill Out the FAFSA? Make it the “FUN”SFA!

by | Oct 1, 2020 | Financial aid and scholarships | 0 comments

This post may contain affiliate links. 

Do you need to fill out the FAFSA? 

You don’t wanna do it. You’re dreading it. Almost as much as the Q4 proposal project at work. Or cleaning the garage. Or staining your broad-as-a-beach deck.

You. Just. Don’t. Want. To. Do. It. 

So, how to make you feel better about the FAFSA? I wrote “Why is the FAFSA important?” the other day, then realized I didn’t dig deep into how you feel about this dreaded experience. 

My bad. I spent so much time convincing you that you need to file that I forget everyone has a giant mental block about the thing.

Plus, most of this going-to-college business is so serious that it’s time to put the energy back into the college search.

Let’s try to trick your mind into thinking you’re having tons of fun! Stop saying, “But… it’s not!” 

Who says the FAFSA can’t be fun? 

1. Tell yourself, “It only takes 55 minutes.”

That’s the amount of time it takes to fill out the FAFSA. Just 55 minutes. 

Only 55 minutes. You can do anything for 55 minutes. If you can work out for an hour (and put yourself through that torture daily — (let me tell you how much I dislike exercise!) you can file the FAFSA.

2. Do something enjoyable while you file.

Quick — what can you do while you file? Right off the top of my head: 

  • Watch “Grey’s Anatomy” episodes (gosh, I love that show). Or, obviously, another show you find fun to watch.
  • Bake something that takes an hour (bread, a pie, etc.) and it’ll be doubly rewarding at the end of 55 minutes.
  • Self-pamper — glass of wine, mud mask, pedicure, etc. Might as well be relaxed as you sift through your 2019 tax information.
  • Relax in a lounge chair outside (as long as your papers won’t blow away… I swear, it’s like we live on the edge of a cliff on the edge of a violent ocean or on the top of a mountain, it’s so windy here. I’d never be able to work outside). If you can do it without chasing papers across your backyard, enjoy!
  • Go somewhere else. If you find it relaxing to go to the library or a coffee shop and remove yourself completely from the chaos at home, go for it.
  • Eat something enjoyable. Get takeout. A noodle bowl. A container of brownie cookie dough chocolate chip ice cream (that’s the kind my husband brought home the other night). 

Obviously, you can’t summit one of Colorado’s fourteeners while you file the FAFSA, but why not watch your favorite movie? Slurp a mudslide? 

Make it fun!

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3. Get your partner or spouse on board. Or involve your child.

Okayyy, so this might not be the most relaxing idea ever. But at least you’ll have some company while you file, even if your go-to person isn’t that much help. (I keep thinking about all the moms and dads who do the FAFSA all by themselves every year. So sad!)

Make it a FAFSA date night! (LOL!) 

4. Get some help. 

Don’t even worry about trying to figure it out yourself. If you’ve never done it before, you can find someone at your state planning agency who can help you. (For example, if you live in Nebraska, you can have EducationQuest help you.) These agencies provide programs, tools and resources to help students and parents with all aspects of planning and preparing for the academic, social and financial aspects of life after high school.

5. Think past the gargantuan task of filing the FAFSA.

Focus on the first thing you must do first — turning on the computer, then going to the website and log in. When you start to think about the FAFSA as a whole, that’s when you might feel like you’re choking or not getting enough air. 

6. Watch videos to get you geared up. 

EducationQuest offers some great videos to show you how to file the FAFSA. They take you step by step through each FAFSA section. Watching them helps you realize the FAFSA is easy-peasy, pumpkin squeezy (something my seven-year-old daughter says). 

After you watch the videos, just make sure you actually do the FAFSA next. 

7. Think of all the scholarships and other financial aid your child will get. 

Is that not motivation enough? Filing the FAFSA is the way to get the most federal money you possibly can. 

And if that isn’t enough, check out the Scholarship System’s list of scholarships. It’s an excellent, comprehensive list, and the Scholarship System even has a fantastic list of scholarship websites to boot!

8. Zoom with a friend and do it together.

Chances are, you’ve got a friend who also has a child going off to college. Set up two screens — Zoom on one, FAFSA on the other. Chat happily away as you fill out the FASFA, line by line. Warning: You’ll have so much fun you won’t get done in 55 minutes. 

9. Get prepared. 

There’s nothing worse than scrambling for documents when you’re trying to fill something out. You’ll need a few things before you get started, including your: 

  • FSA ID: See why it’s a major bonus to get the FSA ID ahead of time so you don’t have to wait when you’re ready to file?
  • Social Security numbers: You’ll need both your student’s and your own Social Security number to fill out the FAFSA form.
  • Driver’s license number: Don’t worry about this step if you don’t have a driver’s license number.
  • 2019 tax records: You always work two years backward on the FAFSA. On the 2021–22 FAFSA form, you report your 2019 income information.
  • Untaxed income records: Gather information about child support, interest income, veterans’ non-education benefits and more. Again, you’ll need your 2019 tax information. 
  • Assets: Gather information about your money — savings and checking account balances, stocks, bonds, secondary real estate and more. 
  • List of schools your child may attend: Add any college (you can list up to 10!) your child is considering, even if your child hasn’t applied for it yet. The FAFSA form will automatically send your FAFSA results electronically to those schools. 

10: You can speed it up! (Whew!)

Use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) to make the FAFSA a breeze. The DRT allows you to securely transfer original IRS tax return information using the FAFSA’s easy-to-use prompts. 

Note: Not everyone is eligible to use the IRS DRT. Furthermore, the IRS DRT does not input all the financial information required on the FAFSA form. Make sure you have your 2019 tax return and 2019 IRS W-2 available as a backup.

How Else Can You Make it More Fun?

Again, do you need to fill out the FAFSA? 

YES.

There’s no reason it has to be un-fun. Just do it, get it over with, submit it to those schools.

Maybe you’ll come out of the process smelling like lavender with perfectly manicured nails. Or with messy hair — because you file the FAFSA on the beach. 

It’s 2020 and weird. Embrace it!  

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