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Nobody looks forward to applying for financial aid, but for post-secondary school students it’s almost as unavoidable as death and taxes. Did you fill out your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form back in undergrad school? If you’re planning to apply for aid in obtaining your graduate degree, get ready to revisit the financial aid grind!

It can get complicated. Certified College Planning Specialists Carl Buck and Rick Darvis, authors of Pay for Your Graduate Nursing Education Without Going Broke, advise that “no graduate nursing school will necessarily replicate the same financial aid application, nor will funding or financial aid award letters be the same.” So, keep track of the requirements at the institutions where you’re applying.

Recent Changes to FAFSA Requirements

Over the past few years, some changes have been made in the FAFSA financial aid process. For instance, tax information used to be required for the previous full tax year—but now, you must provide information from your prior, prior tax year (for instance, on the current 2020-21 FAFSA form, you should enter your tax information from 2018). Also, keep in mind that the FAFSA submission start date is now October 1 (the 2020-21 form opened on October 1, 2019; the deadline is June 30, 2021). The sooner you file, the more grant money you are likely to receive, so file sooner rather than later!

Confirm whether you are considered dependent or independent. As a grad student you are probably now no longer a dependent of your parents or guardians. In this case, you will only be reporting your own tax information, not your family’s. However, there can be exceptions to this rule. In some grad programs, for financial aid purposes, students who are under 30 are still classified as dependents (whether or not you are in fact independent). Be sure you know whether a program you’re applying to has such a requirement; if it does, you still need to supply your parents’ tax information.

How Does the FAFSA Compute Your Financial Needs?

The Federal financial aid process calculates your expected annual family contribution. This is based on the assets held by you (and if married, your spouse) and/or your family—such as money in savings, checking, stocks, CDs real estate (excluding your own home)—and annual earnings. From your total in assets and adjusted gross income, the FAFSA calculates how much you (or your family) can contribute toward your schooling costs. This Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is subtracted from the cost of your attendance.

Important note: as Peterson’s points out, if you or your parents filed or were eligible to file tax form 1040EZ or 1040A, however, the FAFSA will only calculate financial need based on adjusted income.

Free Webinar on Financing for Nursing Grad School

You can attend an upcoming webinar on how to manage financing for nursing graduate school. Hosted by Certified College Planning Specialist Carl Buck, author of Pay for Your Graduate Nursing Education Without Going Broke, the topics covered will include: case studies based on real nurses’ successful creative financing strategies, how to negotiate your own financial aid package, new nursing scholarships, and how to benefit from tax incentives.

To register, click on one of the below dates and times:

February 27, at 2PM EST

March 3, at 1PM EST

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