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College 101

The FAFSA
Article Type: Quick and Dirty

Ah, the FAFSA, also known as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known as Paperwork from Hell. The only good thing to be said for the FAFSA is that filling it out is slightly less painful than a root canal...oh, and of course, a filled-out FAFSA can result in the dinero you need for college.

"Open wide and say, “AHHHHHHHHH!!!"

(Source)

Here's how the FAFSA works. You sit down. You fill it out. You yell at your parents in the other room for certain financial details that only they can provide. You submit the FAFSA. And then you wait.

Because the FAFSA is a snapshot of your financial situation, colleges use it to determine whether or not you are in need of aid. The U.S. government also uses the FAFSA to decide if the taxpayers of America should fund your adventures in post-secondary education, via loans and/or grants.

The FAFSA becomes available every year on January 1st... and you will have to fill the darned thing out every year you are in college, BTW, if you want to continue to be eligible for some forms of financial aid. Remember that some FAFSA-related awards are doled out on a first-come, first-served basis, and that the FAFSA can be a real pain in the rear to fill out. Have the documentation you need for the FAFSA (see the aptly named Checklist: What You Need to Complete the FAFSA) ready to go when the New Year rolls around, so you can do the paperwork in a timely manner.

If you want to maximize your aid eligibility (and you really do), go read Quick & Dirty: Hacking the FAFSA. You're welcome.

One last note. Scammers just love to go after poor, unsuspecting, college-bound young people with fake FAFSA websites that ask for money. DO NOT GIVE THEM MONEY. Avoid known scam websites – like fafsa.com, fafsaonline.com, and fafsa.net – like they have the clap.

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