The first mistake many students and families make is assuming they can't afford college. Don't be discouraged by the sticker price of college until you know how much financial aid may be available to you. Financial aid can significantly reduce the cost of college, but it can be tricky to estimate how much student aid you will get. Two factors are generally used to determine who gets student aid and how much they get: need and merit.
Some student aid programs use a combination of need and merit to determine eligibility.
It all starts with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). With this one application, you can apply for financial aid at multiple colleges and from multiple funding sources (federal, state, institutional and private providers of assistance). Mistakes can delay your application, potentially limiting the amount of aid your are eligible to receive. As you prepare to fill out your FAFSA, review this list of FAFSA Tips and Common Mistakes To Avoid handy.
Right now! You will need to fill out the FAFSA once for each academic year that you will attend school. The farther in advance you do it, the better.
2015 - 2016 Academic Year
The FAFSA for next academic year (July 1, 2015- June 30, 2016) is available online now. This worksheet gives you a preview of the questions asked, and will help you gather the information you need before starting the online application. You may also want to print off this FAFSA checklist, which tells you what information and forms you need to have on-hand to help you fill out the FAFSA.