9 Tools for Your Financial Aid Toolkit: A Guide for Parents

You’re about to enter a whole new world with your high school student looking at colleges, and most likely, that will mean securing financial aid. Rest assured, the process isn’t as complicated as it seems, but your child will need your assistance.

The earlier you start the process, the better. This means filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as possible, since it determines much of the financial packages to come. However, that’s not all you need to obtain the best support.

9 Items Parents Need to Apply for Financial Aid

Getting a headstart requires having some necessary information and records at hand. Here are the tools you and your child need before beginning the financial aid application.

1. Parental Status

It’s important to capture your family situation clearly, especially if both parents aren’t living in the same household. In some cases, you’ll need to report both parents’ income and tax information; in other cases, only one parent’s information is required. Use this graphic to determine who to include on the FAFSA.

2. Federal Student Aid ID and Social Security Numbers

To complete your FAFSA, you’ll need a Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID, which is a digital signature. This can take up to three days to receive after you register for it. You’ll need an FSA ID for your child and each parent included in the FAFSA.

Additionally, you’ll need your child’s and each parent’s Social Security numbers. You’ll also need your Alien Registration number if you’re an eligible non-US citizen.

3. Financial and Banking Information

A list of your bank accounts and how much money you have in your savings and checking will help you fill out the FAFSA quickly. Expect to answer questions about any other assets you have, such as investment accounts and real estate.

4. Income Tax Forms

You’ll use the income records for the tax year two years prior to the academic year you’re applying for. This means if your child is attending school during the 2023–2024 school year, you’ll include your 2021 tax return for each parent. If your child made enough money to file taxes, you must include this in the FAFSA too.

5. List of Schools

Your child can list up to 10 schools on the FAFSA, even if they haven’t applied or been accepted to those schools. For each school listed, the federal school code is required. Schools receive applications electronically and determine support based on eligibility. Your child won’t receive an offer until they apply, but it’s nice to have additional school options available if they change their mind.

6. Tracker of Important Deadlines

Each state has its own set of deadlines. In California, you must complete and submit forms between October and March of the year before the fall term you plan to start in. Send your application in as early as possible because several schools offer packages on a first-come, first-served basis. That may also be true for any scholarships you plan to apply for. The best way to make sure you hit these due dates is to create a tracker or spreadsheet and check it often.

7. Net Price Calculator

When building a budget or financial plan, understand the difference between the total and net cost. The latter represents the actual money you pay after deducting grants, scholarships, and other financial aid. Use APU’s net price calculator to help determine it.

8. Targeted Scholarships

Outside of the FAFSA, thousands of scholarships are available for students, and they’re the best financial support as you don’t need to pay them back. Because of the competition for scholarships, using resources can help speed up the process. Scholarship databases and schools’ websites can make it easier to find scholarships specific to your schooling needs.

9. Expected Family Contribution

Financial aid determination depends a lot on your expected family contribution (EFC). As such, it’s important to calculate your EFC and have it ready when you fill out the FAFSA. This will let you know if you need to use savings or take out student loans to cover the rest of your child’s school costs.

APU Support

For all of your financial aid questions, an APU advisor is here to help. The university’s goal is to help each student get the maximum financial assistance to make their degree goals a reality.