FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is used primarily to determine the financial aid you’re eligible to receive from the federal government, but many schools also use it when determining their own financial aid packages.

Go to https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa to file your FAFSA.

The form is relatively simple and only takes around 30 minutes to fill out. In order to complete it, you’ll need to have a few things on hand, including:

-Your Social Security Number (SSN)

-Your Alien Registration Number (for non-U.S. Citizens)

-Your or your parents’ federal income tax returns (these can often be transferred into the form automatically)

-Records of untaxed income (if applicable)

-Investment records (if applicable)

Shortly after submitting the FAFSA, you will receive an electronic or paper copy of their Student Aid Report (SAR). The SAR lists basic information about a student’s financial aid eligibility as well as their answers to the questions on the FAFSA. The key number and indicator of your financial aid eligibility is the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). It is an estimate of the amount of money your family can contribute towards your education. We’ll talk more about how it’s used below.

The FAFSA becomes available to you each year on October 1st. Once it’s available, it’s recommended that you fill it out as soon as possible to avoid missing any deadlines and to ensure they have enough time to plan for how to pay for college. Some schools also grant financial aid awards on a first-come, first-served basis.

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