As you probably know, your first step in applying for financial aid will be to provide key info about your family’s finances on the FAFSA. This document will have a short “shelf life”: you’ll have to complete a new FAFSA for every year for which you wish to be considered for aid. Unless you start college early or late, the first FAFSA you’ll complete will include your family’s financial info for the calendar year spanning the second half of your junior year and the first half of your senior year.
What many college-bound students don’t know is that the FAFSA requires info on your income in addition to your parents’ income. And it doesn’t view these incomes in the same way. Money you personally earn is actually viewed as more central to your family’s effort to pay for your college education. Your Expected Family Contribution goes up by 50 cents for every dollar past $6,130 that you earn.
On a positive note, $6,130 is a substantial sum for a full-time student; you’re unlikely to earn this much in a summer job. However, if you also work part-time during the school year, a summer job might push your total income for the year past this mark.
If you can control the amount that you work—i.e., if your family isn’t counting on your income to make ends meet—you might not want to work past the point that you earn $6,130 if it is a year that will be documented on the FAFSA. As stated above, colleges will be expecting you to give them half of what you make past this amount.
Fortunately, once you’re in college, you won’t have to worry about any money you might make through a work-study job. This money won’t count as income when you complete the FAFSA (it will count as financial aid); as such, you don’t have to worry about it putting you above the $6,130 cut-off.
Click here to read more on the College Solution blog. For more detailed information on how to apply for aid and fill out aid applications (e.g., the FAFSA) to your best advantage, check out our Paying for College Without Going Broke guidebook.