During this time of year, students all over the country are rushing to complete their Free Applications for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and unfortunately, that also means there are individuals and businesses out there who are trying to profit from those who need the money for their college expenses.
Of all the programs that might potential help fund students in their college costs, the FAFSA is one of your best chances of actually receiving money with no strings attached. As such, the FAFSA should always be a student’s first priority in financial aid and scholarships.
But since the program is so well known and since it has a possibly undeserved reputation for being a time-consuming and difficult process, there are those who want to charge students a hundred or more dollars to complete the otherwise free application. While there has been little reason to let someone collect that kind of money for completing a few applications that are basically derived from your tax forms anyway, this year the process of completing the FAFSA is easier than ever.
There are arguments out there that funding college is just too confusing, but a patient approach to organizing your financial data and completing the FAFSA is actually pretty straight-forward. Just head to http://fafsa.ed.gov/ and follow the directions on the screen.
If you don’t have a student PIN yet, be sure to apply for that first. They’ve sped up the process by an incredible amount, but it still might take a day or two for you to get the log-in information you need to continue the process.
While you’re waiting for the PIN, be sure to collect and complete all of your 2009 tax information in anticipation of an early 2010 return date. While the taxes aren’t due until April 15, that is too late to wait if you’re planning to apply for federal financial aid! Remember, these awards are limited and distributed on a first-come first-serve basis.
And yes, even if you think you made too much money to receive additional free assistance, its probably still a good idea to spend the hour or so that it takes to complete the FAFSA. Even if you don’t get selected for free government money, you can still use the profile for other programs.
Now remember, the process is a little tedious and possibly frustrating, but its not worth it to spend big money on something you can complete on your own anyway! If you can’t be bothered to fill out some application forms for one of the best sources of free money, then how do you expect to find scholarships and grants that are even more competitive?
Good luck out there, and remember: You’re trying to get free money for school, not trying to spend money above and beyond the already high costs of college!