Deal with the FAFSA

Students considering their upcoming college years usually give thought to their financial futures, too. The most immediate concern: how to pay all the bills associated with higher education.

FAFSA (Application for Federal Student Aid ) is the form that students love to hate. It's a necessary first step in the process of applying for almost any type of financial assistance. Each year, the FAFSA form is made publicly available in November or December. You can obtain a paper version of the FAFSA application from your high school counselor or college financial aid offices. The form is also available free online via most college Web sites and from the government Web site. If you want to send your FAFSA form electronically, you can download FAFSA Express software to your computer.

The FAFSA can be submitted any time after January 1 of the year that you intend to begin school. Send it in as soon as possible for priority consideration.

Here are some fast FAFSA facts:

This form is free and there is no charge to file it. You do not need to pay anyone or any service to obtain the form, complete it, or file it.

You may complete a FAFSA form even if you have not yet been admitted to a college.

  • File the form as soon after January 1 as possible, but not before January 1. The final filing date is usually June 30 of that same year. Filing by mid-March of the year you are planning to attend college will help maximize aid available to you.
  • It takes between four to six weeks for your FAFSA form to be processed and for you to receive your Student Aid Report, which will show what you (or your family) is expected to contribute to your college education that year (Expected Family Contribution).
  • FAFSA must be filed again EVERY YEAR to receive federal student aid because your financial circumstances and thus your eligibility may change.