My teen daughter heads to college this fall, and we are busily dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s on necessary enrollment forms. (My funny college application essay must have gotten lost in the shuffle, because she actually got into a good school!)
The biggest hurdle for us as parents is funding her education. As such, we’re filling out the FAFSA – Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Whether she gets Federal aid or not isn’t the issue; pretty much every university financial aid office expects the form to be filled out before you can even apply for a student loan.
Only problem – the online FAFSA hasn’t been playing nice, especially with our daughter’s two-home living situation.
It started earlier this year when I filled out the FAFSA4caster – an online form that helps you predict how much aid you might qualify for. When the real FAFSA goes live, you can transfer all your data from the FAFSA4caster. Pretty cool, right?
Um, not exactly.
As a divorced single dad with majority (by one day) custody of my daughter, it was my responsibility to deal with the forms. I spent hours filling out the FAFSA4caster, only to discover it could only transfer data to last year’s FAFSA form. I asked FAFSA online chat help operators to assist me, and they told me it should work fine. It didn’t. When I finally reached someone on the phone, that FAFSA person said it didn’t work, after all, and I’d have to input all the data again.
When I filled out the actual FAFSA, it went a little quicker. Only problem, both the parent and student have to “sign” it with an electronic pin ID – which you apply for separately. I had mine, but my daughter didn’t have hers yet, and she was at her mom’s house when I filled all this out. When she finally applied for and received her pin, we went online to submit the form –
And all my financial data was missing. WTF? Hours of my time went wasted again.
Meanwhile, my ex-wife was looking into her part of the financial aid equation. Many universities want financial data from both divorced parents, no matter which claims the child on tax returns. It wasn’t clear to my ex that you only fill out the FAFSA once, for the student, and not twice (once for each parent). Who can blame her - is anything in a government process clear?
My ex-wife logged into the FAFSA system, reset her password – and all my financial data showed up in her FAFSA account.
Thankfully, she didn’t delete all that information, and I hadn’t yet input it a third time. She and I spoke on the phone and sorted it out. She tried changing the password back, but that made the data disappear again. We found by keeping her password, my data was there just fine.
So now we’re now using an online FAFSA form with my financial data and my ex-wife’s password for my daughter’s application.
The lesson: only fill out ONE FAFSA for your student. Period. Don't pass Go. Don't collect $200. And be sure to use your Get Out of Jail Free card whenever you like.
Before I fill out another government form online, I’d like to have a cocktail in hand. Can someone shake up my best margarita recipe? It’s nearly cinco de mayo, after all. Tequila should help those government forms go down, real good. Don’t you think?
And just in case, why don’t you shake up that margarita recipe for my ex-wife, too.
Follow Dad's House on Facebook. Or just go straight to his single parent blog. Or not. Hell, just have a margarita, and call it day!
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