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You’ve probably seen it before. You’ve probably filled it out before… Maybe numerous times. And yet still, it keeps coming back. Again and again, and again. But really, it’s all for your own benefit.

What is it? The FAFSA.

Filling out the FAFSA form is a necessary step to receiving federal financial aid. And if you can, you want to receive federal financial aid. Government financial aid takes many forms (grad school grants, loans, and work-study), and provides many students the opportunity to get the degree they want.

You can fill out FAFSA forms online or you can pick up a paper-based copy at a public library or any college.

When to fill out the FAFSA form

The official deadline for the FAFSA is June 30, but you should apply as soon as possible after January 1. This is because some schools have “priority processing deadlines,” which encourage students to apply early so that they are eligible for the numerous types of financial aid (some aid is granted on a first-come, first-served basis).

Some applicants might have a problem with this. You want to get your FAFSA form submitted quickly, but you may not have all the necessary tax forms. If this is the case, estimate your tax information; you’ll be able to make corrections later.

What you need to fill out the FAFSA form

When filling out the FAFSA form, you may need the following:

  • Driver’s license
  • Social Security number
  • Federal income tax return
  • Your parents’ federal income tax return (if you’re a dependent)
  • Your W-2 forms
  • Records of your untaxed income from the previous year
  • Bank statements
  • Business and mortgage information
  • Investment records
  • Alien registration card (if you’re not a U.S. citizen)

Tips on filling out the FAFSA form

  • Fill out the form completely
  • Make sure that all information is accurate
  • Submit all required forms with your application
  • If necessary, submit additional paperwork required by a specific school
  • To get results fast, submit your application online

What happens next?

When your application is processed, a unique Student Aid Report is created for you. This report is sent to you, your state’s aid office, and any schools that you listed on the FAFSA.

Each school then uses your Student Aid Report to create your financial aid package.