Are We Having Fun Yet??

I’m stripped naked and lying face up on a steel table while a group of stone-faced people — all with clipboards and calculators — surround me.

“How much money did you make last year?” one demands. “What’s your Adjusted Gross Income, line x of the IRS tax form?”

“Your cash on hand — and your child’s — how much do you have?” another chimes in.

“Drivers license number? Social security number? Investments, if any?”

“Oh, we see you have a business. What’s its net worth?”

“Did you receive any government assistance — food stamps, TANF, WIC, SSI?”

My head spins. Dutifully I scramble through income tax records, checking and savings accounts, frantic to round up the figures I need to meet their March 1 deadline.

Everybody says February is the cruelest month. Probably they’re referring to how miserable its weather typically is — cold, wet, ice, snow, wind.

I contend February is the cruelest month because of Financials.

That’s right — income taxes aren’t bad enough. For parents of college students, there’s the FAFSA to complete.

Those yet to experience the Wonderful World of Student Financial Aid have a treat in store. My best advice? Save everything!

The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is being linked with your federal income tax returns, but you’ll need plenty of other materials, and it’s never too late to become a pack rat.

Nobody (except a few “experts”) claims completing the FAFSA is a piece of cake. Far from it, if you’re like me and your eyes glaze over when you see numbers! It’s especially daunting when they change your ID numbers from year to year (to protect you, of course) or refuse to let you access the system if you’re not using the Internet browser they prefer.

While students are busily filling out college applications, writing essays, taking virtual (and in-person) tours of campuses and such, parents are jumping through government hoops in hopes of proving their son or daughter is eligible for “free money.”

We bare our souls — and our finances. We answer questions never asked in polite circles. We go online and complete page after miserable page of data, sign it all with a government-issued electronic PIN, and pay for the pleasure with a credit card.

Then we wait to see if our student qualifies for grants or loans or work-study.

Oh, and don’t think the FAFSA is everything — some universities (like Notre Dame) require completion of the IDOC (College Board’s Institutional Documentation Service). This delightful gem really gets into your business and has an über number of steps to follow.

One of my favorites? Providing copies of your income tax records to prove you aren’t cheating or lying.

I’ve endured this assault to my sensibilities for three whole years now, but I see light at the end of the tunnel. Checking the box that indicates my son will be a senior next fall, I realize with a start this will be my LAST FAFSA nightmare.