Having one child who is heading to college can be stressful, but having to help multiple children at the same time can feel like too much to manage. While I can’t save you from a forgotten application deadline or the “how to do your own laundry” lessons, hopefully, I can help make the financial aid part of the process run more smoothly with these tips:
How many FSA IDs will my children and I need? How many FAFSAs do we have to complete?
An FSA ID is a username and password combination that serves as your legal electronic signature throughout the financial aid process—from the first time your children fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid ( FAFSA®) until the time their loans are paid off. You AND each of your children will need your own FSA ID. Parents and students can create their FSA IDs here.
Each of your children will need to fill out a FAFSA. Your children will also need to provide your (parent) information on their 2017–18 FAFSA unless they are going to graduate school, were born before January 1, 1994, or can answer “yes” to any of these questions.
Example: You have three children who are going to or who are in college. You’ll need four FSA IDs—one for you as the parent (only one parent needs an FSA ID) and one for each child. You’ll need to fill out three FAFSAs, one for each child.
Can I transfer my information from one child’s FAFSA to another so I don’t have to re-enter it?
Yes! Once your first child’s FAFSA is complete, you’ll get to a confirmation page. On the confirmation page, you’ll see a hyperlink that says, “transfer your parents’ information into a new FAFSA.” Make sure you have your pop-up blocker turned off and click that link.
TIP: If you want the process to go as smoothly as possible, your second child should have his/her FSA ID handy so you’re ready for the next step.
You’ll then see the alert below confirming that you want to transfer your information to another FAFSA.
Once you click “OK,” a new window will open allowing your other child to start his or her FAFSA. We recommend that your child starts the FAFSA by entering his or her FSA ID (not your FSA ID) using the option on the left in the image below. However, if you are starting your child’s FAFSA, choose the option on the right and enter your child’s information.
IMPORTANT: Regardless of who starts the application from this screen, the FAFSA remains the student’s application; so when the FAFSA says “you” it means the student. If the FAFSA is asking for parent information, it will specify that. When in doubt, refer to the left side of the screen. It will indicate whether you’re on a student page (blue) or a parent page (purple).
After you select the FAFSA you’d like to complete and create a save key, you’ll be brought to the introduction page, which will indicate that parental data was copied into your second child’s FAFSA.
Once you reach the parent information page, you will see your information pre-populated. Verify this info, proceed to sign and submit the FAFSA, and you’re done!
NOTE: If you have a third (or fourth, fifth, etc.) child who needs to fill out the FAFSA and provide your information, repeat this process until you’ve finished all your children’s FAFSAs.
I have education savings accounts (529 plan, etc.) for my children. How do I report those on the FAFSA?
You report the value of all education savings accounts owned by you, your child, or any other dependent children in your household as a parent investment. (Read “What is the net worth of your parents’ investments?” for more information.) If you have education savings accounts for multiple children, you must report the combined current value of those accounts, even if some of those children are not in college yet or are not completing a FAFSA.
Example: Child 1 and 2 are filling out the FAFSA. Child 3 is in 8th grade. They each have 529 college savings plan accounts in their names.
- Child 1 account balance: $20,000
- Child 2 account balance: $13,000
- Child 3 account balance: $8,000
You would add $41,000 to any other parent investments you’re required to report and input it when asked, “What is the net worth of your parents’ investments?” on each of your children’s FAFSAs.
How does having more than one child in college impact the amount of financial aid my children qualify for?
Having multiple children enrolled in college at the same time could have an impact on your children’s eligibility for need-based federal financial aid.
TIP: We often hear about families who choose not to fill out the FAFSA again because they believe that they won’t qualify for grants or scholarships, especially if they did not qualify the previous year. This is a huge mistake, especially if you will have additional children entering college. Read on to learn why.
Schools use the following formula to determine a student’s eligibility for need-based financial aid:
Cost of attendance (COA) – Expected Family Contribution (EFC) = financial need
Let’s break down this formula:
Cost of attendance: This will vary by school, so if you have two children attending different schools with different costs, their financial need may be different, even if their EFC is the same.
Expected Family Contribution: The information you provide on the FAFSA is used to calculate your child’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The EFC is a combination of how much a parent and student are expected to contribute towards the student’s cost to attend college. The EFC is not necessarily the amount of money your family will have to pay for college, nor is it the amount of federal student aid you will receive. It is a number used by your child’s school to calculate how much financial aid he or she is eligible to receive. Since we recognize that a parent’s annual ability to pay doesn’t change as you have more children enroll in college, we divide the expected parent contribution portion by the number of children you expect to have in college.
Example: Let’s assume that all of your dependent children have identical financial information and that the calculated EFC assuming one child in college would be $10,000. Here’s how each child’s EFC would change depending on the number of family members attending college full-time.
|Number of dependent children in college full-time||Each child’s EFC|
Financial need: Please note that schools differ (sometimes greatly) in their ability to meet each student’s financial need. To compare average school costs schools based on family income, visit the CollegeScorecard.ed.gov.
Nicole Callahan is a Digital Engagement Strategist at the U.S. Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid.
Photo by Getty Images