University of Virginia

Whose FAFSA Is It Anyway?

One of the first things you have to consider before starting the FAFSA financial aid form is “who is going to be in charge?” Here’s what you need to keep in mind.

The FAFSA is for the student, and is under the student’s name and social security number. However, much of the information–in fact, most of the important financial information–pertains to the parents (questions about income and assets.) This type of information is generally not something the kids have ready access to, so parents will need to supply it. Finally, parents have more familiarity with financial¬†forms, and the FAFSA is an important form with a high follow-up verification rate. You don’t want to make a mistake.

One of the most important aspects of the college process is how you can involve you teenagers in the jobs that need to be done. But the FAFSA might not be one that falls into that category for your family. So give that question some thought before you get started and the FAFSA will go more smoothly.

If you decide that you want to retain control, here are some tips.

a. Apply for PINs for you and for your teenager. You each will need a PIN as your official signature on the FAFSA.

b. Use your email address anytime an email address is asked for. This is how communication is handled and you want to be sure you see what is being communicated.

c. You (Mom or Dad) sit down and start the FAFSA, getting through the initial screens of Student’s name, SSN and birthday, and you use your email address and you select the password.

d. Print out a blank copy of either the FAFSA On the Web Worksheet or the Printable FAFSA (both on the FAFSA website) and show your teenager what it looks like. If you want him or her to supply information about his or her own income and assets, that can be a good way to get them involved (but be sure to double check.) If you want to share your own financial information, that’s fine too, that’s your call as Mom or Dad. But you don’t have to if you don’t want to.

e. The EFC will come in the form of a Student Aid Report (SAR) in a week or two, by email. The SAR lists all of the financial information used to calculate the EFC so if you didn’t want to share your financial information, you probably won’t want to share the copy of the SAR. However, you can share what the EFC is so your teenager knows where they stand in the financial aid game.

The FAFSA can be confusing to complete, but you want to get the basics right before you start. There is no right or wrong answer here, but how you handle it will reflect your values, so give it some thought up front.