I am trying to fill out my FAFSA. My father retired last year and I
am confused as to what to put for his financial answers, for example,
gross income, taxes, etc. Do I fill out a separate form because he is
retired? Will they know that he is retired? I am so lost and getting
frustrated. Please help!
— Alexa H.
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You complete the FAFSA with your father's actual income, as it will be
reported on his federal income tax return. Untaxed Social Security
benefits are not reported. Even though he is retired, he may still
have some taxable income, such as from retirement plan distributions,
interest and dividends. The FAFSA does not provide any special
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treatment for parents who are retired, other than a higher asset
protection allowance for older parents. There are no separate forms
for retired people.
Note that while retirement funds are not reported as an asset on the
FAFSA, this exclusion is restricted to funds that are in qualified
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retirement accounts like a pension fund, IRA, 401(k) or 403(b). Money
that is not in a qualified retirement account is still reported as an
asset, even if the parent is retired.
Colleges will generally not make an adjustment for a change in income
when someone retires because retirement is not considered an unusual
If your parents' income is below $50,000 and certain other conditions
are met, assets will be disregarded entirely by the federal need
analysis methodology. If your parents' income is below $30,000 and
certain other conditions are met, your expected family contribution
(EFC) will be automatically set to zero, entitling you to a full Pell
I am a senior in high school and my parents have been divorced
since I was about 5 years old. My father was ordered to pay child
support, but he only paid every now and then. We are now going through
a child support service that retrieves past due child support. We have
not yet received any money but I was wondering whether it would affect
my student aid.
— Samantha W.
Only child support payments that were received
, not owed, are
reported on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). If
your FAFSA is selected for verification, the college will verify child
support received if the amount differs from the amount reported on the
previous year's FAFSA. They may verify it by asking for a copy of the
separation agreement or divorce decree.
If you receive a lump sum payment for past due child support from
previous years, ask the college to use its professional judgment to
reduce the reported figure to the annual obligation. After all, such a
lump sum payment is not reflective of your ability to pay during the
award year, since it is a one time event.
Is it correct that before my son can apply for any scholarships we
have to fill out and submit the FAFSA first?
— Rachel C.
This is not correct. The FAFSA is used to apply for federal and state
student aid, as well as aid from all public colleges and most private
colleges. It is not used to apply for scholarships.
You should submit the FAFSA as soon as possible on or after October 1
because some states have very early deadlines for state grants, as
early as February or March. Students and their parents can use the prior prior year's tax information to fill out the form.
Start searching for scholarships as soon as possible. Scholarships
have deadlines throughout the year. If you wait until you submit the
FAFSA, you'll miss about half the scholarship deadlines. Also, you
don't need to be a high school senior to apply for scholarships. There
are many scholarships that are open to high school students in grades
9-11 in addition to grade 12. There are even
scholarships for children in grades K-8
There are also scholarships for current college students.
One of the benefits of the free Fastweb scholarship matching service
is that it automatically notifies you of new awards that match your
personal profile. New and updated scholarships are added to the
scholarship database every day. (It's a good idea to review and update
your personal profile at least once a year to ensure that you match as
many scholarships as possible.)
Only a handful of scholarship programs ask for your EFC or a copy of your
financial aid award letter. In most cases these scholarship programs
will allow you to submit this information later.