Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Help with the FAFSA equals a happy mom February 28, 2012

IT IS A RELIEF, I tell you, to have the taxes and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid filed. Both have been hanging over my head since the first of the year.

Since I detest figures and forms, I fail to welcome January with any hint of enthusiasm.

But somehow I manage to plow through the paperwork, sifting through files, pulling together information for the tax preparer. Yes, I pay someone to “do” our taxes because it is well worth the money to have everything done right without stressing me to the max.

This year I was under additional pressure to get the taxes done early so I could file the FAFSA. My son, my youngest, starts college in the fall.

Several years have passed since I last filled out this college financial aid form for my second daughter and, before that, her sister. I welcomed the respite from this task. Not that it should be so difficult given the process is done online. But, remember, I don’t like figures or forms. At all.

A portion of the informational sheet my son received from Faribault High School about the FAFSA workshop.

This time around, though, I wasn’t on my own. The Faribault High School Counseling Department hosted a Minnesota College Goal Sunday Workshop to assist parents and students in completing the FAFSA.

Yes, my son and I were among the first in line for the two-hour workshop. I expected long lines. My expectations were wrong. I have no idea how many turned out, but certainly significantly fewer than I anticipated during the hour we were there. Computer terminals were not packed, not by any stretch.

That was good for my son and me. No waiting. Questions answered as soon as my arm shot into the air, which was often.

The FAFSA offers a new feature—at least new since the last time I filed—that allows applicants to connect to their tax returns. The tax return information then automatically transfers to the FAFSA app. That option failed to work for us; something about too little time elapsing since taxes were filed.

Within an hour, my son and I had his FAFSA completed and zipped into cyberspace. The process should have taken us only a half hour, according to a rep from the local technical college, among three volunteers who assisted us at the workshop. Well, yeah, I shared with her that I detest figures and forms.

And it didn’t help that I left my prescription computer eyeglasses at home, meaning I struggled to read the words and numbers on the monitor.

FYI: COLLEGE GOAL SUNDAY is a national effort that brings financial aid professionals and other volunteers together to help students and their families complete the FAFSA. Click here for general program information about the Minnesota College Goal Program.

Click here for information and a listing of workshop sites in Minnesota.

Students who attend, fill out and submit a FAFSA and then complete a workshop evaluation are entered into a drawing for a $500 scholarship. Now how’s that for an incentive to participate? One student in Faribault will walk away with $500 for his/her college education. Win. Win.

Even if my son doesn’t win the scholarship, we’ve still won. We got professional assistance, at no cost, to complete a task I dread.

I’m just wondering. Can I return next year even though my son will already be in college?

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


8 Responses to “Help with the FAFSA equals a happy mom”

  1. ceciliag Says:

    What a fantas8ic idea, people trained to fill out forms! helping people like you and i who go into panic mode at the sight of them. c

  2. So cool! I remember filling in the form by hand! Sounds silly but I realize I rarely ever write anything with a pen anymore (except for a hand written thank you note, which is a must for me!).

    I join you on the figures and forms distaste. I admit I also hire a tax preparer… it would never get done otherwise!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Yes, I filled these in by hand, too, with my eldest who is eight years older than her brother. Only three more years of doing a FAFSA and that’s it. Yeah!

  3. Eldest has no idea what she wants to do. Should I be stressed? She could do anything, kind of a geeky smart kid. I can’t even imagine filling out these forms? It seems like it should be years away yet. So glad you are enjoying the road that is ahead of me. It is good to hear. Very welcome advice. Thank you.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Dana, try not to stress. Eldest will find her way, as will your two other daughters.

      My son is also a geeky, smart type. Fortunately he’s always known that he wanted to pursue a career in electrical/computer engineering.

      I would encourage your daughter to be well-rounded and participate in both school and community activities. No need to go overboard, though, and stress herself with too much involvement. Continue to keep up the grades and take challenging classes because that can pay off in scholarships, at least here in the states.

      Also, my son has had the opportunity to earn college credits while in high school and will have a semester or more of college credits earned before he even sets foot in a college next fall. That saves him/us money and gives him a jump on his education. Besides, he needed to be challenged.

  4. Dawn Tietz Says:

    FAFSA happened at our house last week. Luckily my husband did it all while I kept the rest of the homework/showers /bedtime rituals going. I think I got the easier job. Luckily when you have two attending college I think there is a quick way to duplicate what you fill in for one to the other’s form. Lucky you had a place to go and ask questions when they arose.Just imagine what it will be like in twelve years when my last is finally ready for college-will FAFSA even exist??

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      You most definitely got the easier part of the deal. I always handle the FAFSA stuff, with assistance of the college-bound student. It’s not that I want to, but, hmmmmm, the husband has never volunteered, although I’ve certainly asked.

      As for funding your youngest’s college education in 12 years, I’d advise you to start saving your money. When you have only one dependent, it definitely impacts any financial assistance you may get.

      I’d love FAFSA to factor in costs such as health insurance premiums when evaluating applications. Last year my family forked out $7,424 for health insurance premiums and another $2,800 for medical and dental bills. That amount of money would go a long ways toward paying for college.

      Oh, and to add to this, I recently received notice that my health insurance is increasing to $416/month. And that’s with a $3,000 deductible. See how easily I get sidetracked when I start talking about college costs.

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