If you’re planning to attend college this year or you’re already there, it’s time to consider filling out and submitting your annual Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.
No single form is more important when it comes to applying for financial aid for college. It’s your first — and likely best — shot at obtaining some form of financial aid.
For the 2015–16 year, you can apply between Jan. 1, 2015, and June 30, 2016. However, there are a few federal student aid programs that have limited funds, so be sure to apply as soon as you can. Students who fill out their FAFSA in January, February or March usually get more grant funding.
The FAFSA gathers information about income and assets to help calculate a family’s expected contribution toward college expenses, and determine a student’s eligibility for federal student aid.
The federal government provides more than $150 billion in grants, loans, and work-study funds each year. But you have to complete the FAFSA to see if you can get any of that money.
High school counselors usually start spreading the word after the Christmas holiday for seniors to prepare themselves and their parents for the maze of college applications. But FAFSA is one application that is needed for just about any institution of higher learning.
If you’re already a college student, the FAFSA continues to be a requirement for continuing or expanding aid.
Some programs other than government or school aid require that you file the FAFSA. For instance, you can’t get certain private scholarships unless you’re eligible for a Federal Pell Grant, but you can’t find out whether you’re eligible for a Pell Grant unless you file a FAFSA.
If the private scholarship’s application deadline is in early to mid-January, you’ll need to submit your FAFSA before that deadline.
You can find state deadlines at www.fafsa.gov or on the paper or PDF FAFSA.