Before you can determine this, you need to know when the financial aid deadlines are for the schools to which you are sending a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You need to go with the earliest financial aid deadline because the FAFSA is distributed at the same time to all of the schools you list. Some schools have February 1 deadlines. Chances are, you are not going to have all of the forms needed to file your taxes and have time to finalize them by February 1. If you do, you are one of the very lucky ones!
For most people, it makes sense to file an early estimate of the FAFSA and then go back to make corrections after your taxes are filed. This way, you make sure you get the FAFSA in by the school’s deadline. The new school year’s FAFSA form is available online starting on January 1, so why not just get it done? It is easy to go back in and update the FAFSA after your taxes are filed. In fact, if you use TurboTax, there is an automatic link to the FAFSA and you can upload your data with the push of a button.
If all schools your child is applying to have late financial aid deadlines, you may be able to wait to file the FAFSA until after you file your taxes. If you can do that, you will have no double-handling of the FAFSA form, you won’t have to remember to go back in later and everything will be accurate.
Happy FAFSA Filing!