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Ace the FAFSA Application with These Tips

Ace the FAFSA Application with These Tips

Financing a college education has become a critical component in making higher education a possibility for most families. Through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), colleges around the country determine the amount of financial aid they will award to students. To assist students through the application process Ombudsman Chicago, in conjunction with Ladder Up hosted a series of FASFSA workshop. Ladder Up provided students and parents with step-by-step FAFSA direction and advice, including the tips below. Check them out to ensure a smooth and easy FAFSA application process.


File Your FASFA Early

Now is the ideal time to go ahead and get the FAFSA out of the way. Some schools and states award aid money on a first-come, first-served basis until funds are depleted. It is easiest to file if you file your taxes first and then use them as a reference point for filling out the FAFSA, but you can also estimate fields on the FAFSA form using last year’s tax return. The sooner you file your college applications, the better your chances of receiving aid.


Have Hesitations? File Anyway

It’s tough to predict exactly how much money you will receive, but still apply. Students who don’t apply for aid when entering college are often banned from asking for institutional aid in subsequent years. Are your parents concerned about providing their personal information because of their citizenship status? Your parents’ citizenship status does not affect your eligibility for federal student aid. In fact, the FAFSA doesn’t even ask about your parents’ status. If your parent does not have a Social Security number, you may enter all zeroes for him or her on the FAFSA where it asks for that information.


Dependent vs. Independent

If you live with your biological father or mother, married or unmarried or adopted parent(s) you are a dependent student and should fill out your FAFSA application for the parent(s) with whom you live. You can file as an independent student if no parent is present in your in life, and it has been determined by the court that you are in a legal guardianship. Other students who may be independent include students who have a child, or have other dependents for whom they provide most of the financial support. Still unsure of your status or need further assistance? Please contact Ladder Up to determine how to complete your FAFSA correctly.  


Be Sure to Fill Out the Form Completely

This may seem obvious, but mistakes on the FAFSA can delay the processing of your application and ultimately obstructed your aid awards. One easy mistake is leaving blank fields that don’t apply to you. Always be sure to write a “0” instead in such instances. The online version application will help alert you when you’ve improperly left fields open.


Save and Make Copies of FAFSA Documents

Once you complete your FAFSA, make sure to save copies of your completed FAFSA form, along with copies of all the information you gathered to fill it out. For additional information and questions concerning the financial aid application process and the FAFSA, please visit


Ladder Up will also host a free tax preparation event at Ombudsman Chicago’s West Side Options School (2401 W. Congress Parkway) on Saturday March 28, 2015 from 8 a.m. – 2 p.m. Visit for more information. 




About Ombudsman Educational Services

Ombudsman Educational Services is a division of Educational Services of America (ESA), the nation’s leading provider of behavior therapy and alternative and special education programs for children and young adults. ESA partners with more than 250 public school districts in 23 states to serve 13,500 students each year in more than 160 schools and programs.


Ombudsman’s alternative education and dropout recovery programs help communities combat the staggering social and economic costs of high dropout rates. Since 1975, Ombudsman Educational Services has educated more than 155,000 at-risk students and students who have previously dropped out – and introduced them to all the opportunities a real high school diploma provides.

About Ladder Up

Ladder Up is a Chicago-based nonprofit organization committed to helping hardworking families and individuals access critical financial resources. Since 1994, Ladder Up has served more than 197,000 clients through its free tax preparation, financial literacy, and financial aid programs; helping them access $383 million in financial benefits.

Keywords: College, Education, FAFSA, Finances, Ladder Up, Ombudsman Chicago

Posted in Education

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