In a world of acronyms, FAFSA may be the one that families dread the most. FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. If you want to be considered for any federal assistance at a college or university, you must go online and fill out the FAFSA. For nearly 250 private schools, you will also need to fill out the CSS Profile if you have not done so already. While the Profile can be filled out as soon as you’ve identified the schools you are applying to, the FAFSA cannot be filled out until January 1st of senior year.
Prior to filling out the FAFSA, both the student applying for aid and his or her parents will need to secure a PIN from the federal student aid website. Once you have your PIN, you’re ready to go!
The FAFSA has long been considered a beast of an application. But, don’t fear, it has been simplified over the years and as long as you have set aside the information you will need and have completed a worksheet, you really should be in good shape. Oh yeah, set aside some time to do it. Don’t expect to just blow through it in ten minutes. Like any other financial application that requires you to enter personal information, you want to take your time and enter everything correctly. In other words, double-check everything you enter. One wrong entry can skew your results significantly. While you are working on your FAFSA, if you run into a problem and realize you need some help, you can always call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4FED-AID (1.800.433.3243).
If you want to read through some great tips on how to avoid mistakes on the FAFSA, check out a recent blog entry on The College Solution by Lynn O’Shaughnessy. I love Lynn’s blog – it’s informative, easy to read and always has references to other web-related resources that will help you feel more confident about working your way through college financing issues.
Good luck with the FAFSA and if you have any questions you would like to ask or stories you would like to share, please use the comment section below.
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Eric Dobler is the president and founder of Dobler College Consulting. Follow him on Twitter.