This looks so minimal, I know. However, this form was one of the most difficult for me. The task was simply to work through a FAFSA form, write down questions as I went, and try to find answers. I've long been aware of what a FAFSA is and how important it is to students trying to afford college, but I had never actually looked at the paperwork before! 

To be honest, I still rarely look at the FAFSA form (or the Common Application, or the CSS either). In a private, independent practice I don't walk students through these forms or check over their work. I don't have to verify anything or pass anything along like a school counselor might. 

That being said, it's supremely important that I keep in mind what all the students have to go through and what that process is like for them. I make sure my clients understand what paperwork is necessary and where to find it. Beyond that, my task is to facilitate the questions and discussions that students need to have with their family about the cost of college. One of the things that never stops surprising me is how many college-bound students have the "what can we actually afford?" discussion last, after applications are finished. 

Just in the past week I was talking to a very successful friend who went to Stanford and now is an executive at Google. He said that he still has no idea how much his parents paid for his college or what kind of sacrifices they made to do it. He said it simply never came up. Going through the forms, understanding what kind of information is asked for and how to obtain it, is one way of helping families make sure the right discussions come up.