Whether you are a first time college student or returning to take college courses, it is important to submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The federal government has allocated $150 billion in grants, loans and work-study funds that are only accessible when you apply for FAFSA. Additionally, many schools and private scholarship awarders require you to apply for FAFSA before you can qualify for additional grants, scholarships and other aid.

To ensure that you get your maximum award, it’s important that you get your FAFSA completed as soon as possible. The first day for FAFSA submissions is January 1 of every year. Mark this as an event on your calendar to ensure that it’s at the top of your to-do list, yearly. The deadline for FAFSA is June 30 at midnight. However, the longer it takes you to apply for FAFSA, the more your qualified aid decreases. Although they begin with $150 billion, that amount dwindles quickly as millions of Americans apply and qualify for aid. It’s a first come, first served kind of thing.

Not sure where to begin? See how to get started below:

Here are some basic documents you will need to fill out the FAFSA:
– Your Social Security Number
– Your parent(s) Social Security number if you are a dependent student
– Your driver’s license number, if applicable
– If you are not a U.S citizen, you need your Alien Registration Number
If you are not sure whether you are a dependent student, then call 1-800-4FEDAID. They will walk you through a series of questions to determine if you should file as a dependent student.
After you have gathered your basic documents start here:

From there follow the outlined instructions. If you run into any snags, you can click on the “Need Help” button listed on the bottom of each page of the application or call 1-800-4FEDAID.

The Department of Education has simplified the FAFSA process over the years and it takes about 21 minutes on average to complete. Also, the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) Data Retrieval Tool launched on February 1st. This tool allows students and parents to access and directly transfer required information from their tax return to the online FAFSA form. This tool can be used if tax returns were filed at least two weeks prior via electronic submission or or at least eight weeks prior by paper.

Again, the federal deadline for online applications for the FAFSA is midnight Central Standard Time on June 30, 2015 for the 2014-2015 school year. For the 2015-2016 school year, the deadline is June 30, 2016 at midnight Central Standard Time.

Be aware that there are many gimmicks and scammers out there offering assistance with filing FAFSA, but understand that it is free to complete. The Federal Student Aid Information Center (1-800-4FEDAID) is there to assist applicants with questions at no charge. It takes approximately 7-10 days for FAFSA to be processed.   However, the status can be checked immediately after online submittal by logging back in to your account.

If you have any additional questions regarding filling out your FAFSA, you can read my Storify created from the #AskFAFSA Twitter chat.

Have additional questions? Feel free to ask them below or leave a comment.

Until Next Time,