Start Your FAFSA Engine Now!

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In addition to applying for college scholarships, students should fill out a free application for student aid (FAFSA).

Today is an important date for college students as January 1 is when students can begin to fill out their free application for student aid (FAFSA) form for the upcoming academic year. Sure, there is still one semester to go this year, but getting started on your FAFSA early means that you have one less area of concern for the 2010-2011 academic year.

Determining Student Aid

So why is filling out FAFSA so important? Because when properly filled out and sent off to the US Department of Education, your FAFSA will determine just how much student aid you will receive. And that aid can shave thousands of dollars off of your tuition bill, helping millions of students pursue their education.

You can fill out the FAFSA if you are an undergraduate or graduate student or someone who will be entering college for the first time this fall. Once you fill out your FAFSA, that information will be processed by the Department of Education. From there, the federal government will produce a Student Aid Report (SAR) to determine how much aid you will receive.

Student Aid Report

Every school you have listed on your FAFSA will get a copy of your SAR; you will receive a copy too. Review your copy to make sure that the information is correct. If you find an error, follow FAFSA instructions to correct these mistakes, a process which can take an additional two or three weeks to remedy.

It takes one to two weeks for a SAR to be generated, sometimes longer. You can track the progress of your FAFSA online (if you previously registered and obtained a personal identification number (PIN)) by visiting FAFSA Follow-Up > Check Status of a Submitted FAFSA or Print Signature Page.

Get Prepared First

Few applicants will be ready to file their FAFSA in January because tax information for the previous year may not yet be complete. But this is a good time for students to organize in preparation for filling out the form (it takes about one hour to complete) by first determining dependency status, using a practice worksheet, searching for school codes, obtaining a PIN, and reviewing application deadlines.

For 2010, SayCampusLife will continue to share tips on how you can save money through student aid, college scholarships, and the careful selection of student loans as a last resort. Please visit our sister site, OfftoCollege.com for more information including a planning calendar for high school seniors who will be going to college next fall.

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Categories: FAFSA Form Tips, Finance