Filling out the FAFSA can be a daunting task, but it’s important to get it done correctly if you want to qualify for the best financial aid packages given your family’s situation. Many families consider using a preparer to help them fill out the form, but it’s important to know what you’re getting into before you make a decision. In this blog post, we will discuss the ins and outs of using a preparer to help you with your FAFSA.
First, it’s important to consider the FAFSA is a free application. After all, the FAFSA stands for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Emphasis on the word free here. Although many families have complex situations in terms of income and assets, the majority of families can fill out the FAFSA with no help at all. The form will become even easier to fill out once the Congress-approved FAFSA simplifications arrive in the coming years (likely the 2024-2025 FAFSA).
Also, keep in mind that asking for help from financial experts such as a CPA or CFP (to guide you in valuing a business, for instance) is not the same as using a preparer to help you fill out the form. A preparer is someone who you pay and signs the FAFSA as a preparer at the end of the form (or should do this, anyway).
If you’re considering using a preparer to help you fill out your FAFSA, then there are several things you should be aware of before making a decision. First and foremost, using a preparer won’t alleviate all the work. The family still has to furnish forms, explain their income and asset situation, and generally engage in the process. Second, the family also verifies the validity of the information in the form by signing with their FSA IDs, just as they would if they had prepared the form on their own.
In most cases, using someone to prepare the FAFSA form is simply unnecessary. If you feel some anxiety, make sure to attend one of our annual FAFSA workshops that we deliver in the community free of charge. Email us to get a list of dates and locations. If you’re still considering using a preparer to help you fill out your FAFSA, it’s important to be aware that using a preparer may delay the submission of your application as sometimes takes additional time to coordinate schedules, agree on deliverables, and establish expectations. Of course, you may be charged a fee for using a preparer’s services.
Another thing to be aware of when considering a FAFSA preparer is the risk of scams. Unfortunately, there are some dishonest preparers who may try to take advantage of students and families looking for help. So be sure to do your research before choosing a preparer and ask around for recommendations. This is also why it is so important to make sure you fill out the FAFSA on the correct website. That website is studentaid.gov.
Before making a decision, be sure to weigh the pros and cons of using a preparer carefully. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact the financial aid office at your school or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.