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.


16 thoughts on “Are We Having Fun Yet??

  1. You have given parents hope that as bad as it is…there is eventually an end in sight. I am so not looking forward to this process. I am exceptionally bad at it. Glad you survived it and can tell your story of triumph.

    • When Domer started college, I had NO IDEA this was part of the process! I guess I figured fairies would appear and do it for us. That didn’t happen. To say it’s been a nightmare is an understatement. But if I can do it, you can, too!

  2. Boy,Deb, you sure nailed this one-filling out any financial forms is a nightmare. So glad you can check the “senior” box this year. I just bought a new car and could wallpaper my office with all the forms I had to sign. Good luck finishing the process!

    • Thanks, Kathy. Yes, buying a new car is very much like signing away your first-born child. They want to know EVERYTHING about you! But isn’t that new-car smell wonderful?!

    • I’m probably getting it mixed up with the IDOC, where there is a fee. Thanks for pointing that one out — you’d think I’d know that after three years, but like I said, figures bore me senseless!

    • My parents certainly didn’t have to complete these forms when we kids went to university, either. Of course, my dad was great with figures, so he wouldn’t have minded much!

  3. I went to an in-state public university and paid for college with money I saved from waitressing. My kids will have to go in-state too, because I don’t think I could fill out those forms correctly. Our regular tax return is enough to drive me to the Tylenol bottle and contemplate calling in sick to work the next day.

    • We don’t all get here alike, do we, Janna? We creative types must have been in the wrong line when God was handing out a “way-with-figures” ability, haha!

  4. When I first started reading this, I thought you were being audited. But then FAFSA, how well I know it. I went through it with my first born, and have been going through it with my second/last child. She’s coming home soon for spring break and we’ll be working on it then. In fact, I no longer call it spring break. It’s FAFSA break! Sheesh. Luckily, this too should be my last year.

    • Light at the end of the tunnel, Monica — woo hoo! I wish I could saddle Domer with this task — after all, he’s the business major! — but because the deadline is way before his spring break, I can’t. Sigh.

  5. Debbie, here’s to you getting through this as painlessly as possible. Although what am I saying when I know darn well the kind of migraines this paperwork produces! How many credits has Domer been taking per year, if I may ask? The Son starts his fourth year next year but still has two more to go! Grief. 🙂

    • Your son must be involved in a different program of study than mine, Bella. Domer has been taking 15-18 credits per semester (I think!); that’s considered a full load. He, too, will be in his fourth year starting in the Fall, but should graduate on time in May 2013. They offer 5-year programs, but Domer’s not in one of them.

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