Tips for the financial aid process

For many families with seniors in high school, this time of year is the beginning of college decision time! While it is an exciting time for the student, it can also be a large financial decision for the family. Whether you have kids heading to school next fall for the first time or kids currently in college, it is never too soon to begin thinking about the upcoming financial aid process and deadlines as we look toward the 2020/2021 school year.

You should start by filling out the federal government’s aid application, known as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This application is used by both the federal government and colleges when federal money is being dispersed. The best way to fill out and submit the FAFSA is online at the Department of Education’s website at In order to do so, you and your child will first need to obtain an FSA ID, which you can also do online.

The FAFSA relies on current asset information and income information from two years prior (e.g., the 2020/2021 FAFSA relies on your 2018 income tax return). Your family’s asset and income information is run through a specific formula to determine your expected family contribution or EFC. Your EFC represents the amount of money that your family is considered to have available to put toward college costs for that year. The federal government uses its EFC figure in distributing federal aid; colleges use their own EFC figure when distributing their own institutional aid.

The difference between your EFC and the cost of attendance (COA) at your child’s college equals your child’s financial need. The COA generally includes billed costs for tuition, fees, room and board, and a designated sum for non-billed costs for books, transportation, and personal expenses. It’s important to remember that the amount of your child’s financial need will vary, depending on the cost of a particular school. The results of your FAFSA are sent to every college that your child applies to.

The FAFSA can be filed as early as October 1st in the year prior to the upcoming school year. For example, for the 2020/2021 school year, you could have filed the FAFSA starting October 1, 2019. The federal deadline for filing the FAFSA for the 2020/2021 school year is June 30, 2021; college deadlines vary and may be earlier.

Below are a few helpful tips:

  • You must complete the FAFSA every year.
  • The earlier you file, the more grant money you are likely to receive. Filing early also helps to ensure you don’t miss FAFSA deadlines for state and college aid, which may differ from the federal deadline.
  • For additional information, including state application deadlines and details on the EFC formula, visit the FAFSA website at
  • You can use the FAFSA’s forecasting tool ( before your child’s high school senior year so you can know what to expect before application season begins.

While the FAFSA can be confusing, it’s a must if you’re looking for federal student loans, as well as any grants and scholarships from federal and state governments and colleges. Even if you think you won’t qualify for financial aid, it’s a good idea to file.


PLEASE NOTE: JNBA is neither an agent of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), nor a banking loan specialist. All lending strategies and benefits must be verified and accepted by FAFSA.

Due to various factors, including changing market conditions and/or applicable laws, the content may no longer be reflective of current opinions or positions.  Moreover, you should not assume that any discussion or information contained in this blog serves as the receipt of, or as a substitute for, personalized investment advice from JNBA Financial Advisors, LLC.

Please see important disclosure information at

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