Every year, there are lots of suggestions about how to streamline the process of applying for financial aid for college and graduate schools. The first thing that families need to know is that it all starts with the FAFSA: Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
For academic year 2016-17, the FAFSA will be available online as of 1/1/16. To meet the earliest financial aid deadlines, families will need to file their 2015 taxes early in January, and use the information from that income tax report to complete the FAFSA. Staring next year, families can file FAFSA as of 10/1/16, relying on 2015 tax information. Later, they can update their FAFSA with their 2016 income information.
Bear in mind that there are colleges that require additional, often redundant forms: their own financial aid forms along with the College Scholarship Service (CSS) form.
Remember, too, that the FAFSA is free. If you stumble into a website that requests payment, you are in the wrong place.
Sarah C. Reese Informed Educational Solutions December 26, 2015