Getting good grades isn’t the only challenge on the road to graduation. Many of the students I talk to worry about how to pay for school. For a lot of them, their biggest support comes from federal financial aid (grants, loans, work-study). That means you need to fill out the FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

If you’re saying, “I already did that,” remember that you have to complete a new FAFSA each year. The 2018-2019 FAFSA application was released on October 1.

There are some common traps that trip up students when filling out the FAFSA. Here are a few helpful tips to get you started:

  • Use the correct website. Make sure you access the FAFSA application from the correct website, The website has a .gov at the end.
  • Your FSA ID. This is the username and password you create and use to electronically sign your application. You will also need it to access some of the other Department of Education websites. If you are a dependent student, your parent will need to create one as well.
  • Apply early. Filling out the application early is important because some states and institutions have deadlines students must meet to be eligible for state financial aid. And some state and institutional aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. The earlier you fill it out, the better. Click here to view the deadline for your state.
  • List all the schools you are interested in attending. You should list schools even if you haven’t applied for admission or been accepted to them yet. Even if there’s just a small chance that you’ll go to a specific school, put it on the list. The results of your FAFSA will be sent to each of the schools listed on your application, so it’s better if they have your application earlier rather than later. Keep in mind, for state aid purposes some states require you to list schools in a specific order. Click here to find out whether your state has a requirement for the order you list schools on your application.

In short, if you need help paying for college then you should fill out the FAFSA. Remember to renew your FAFSA every year you plan to receive aid. The Department of Education releases the next year’s application every October 1.

You may look at the FAFSA and think it’s intimidating or not worth the trouble. Don’t be discouraged. Filling out this all-important application may provide you with the money you need to help pay for college.

Photo of Financial Coach Melanie.About Melanie

I am a Financial Coach for college students and parents. I am an Accredited Financial Counselor (AFC®) and received my BBA in Management from Texas State University. I help students understand their financial aid and help them develop a plan to achieve their educational and financial goals. I was a first-generation college student, so I have a personal understanding of some of the struggles students face.

Working in the financial aid industry for 13 years has given me the opportunity to work with students at different points in their life from starting college to graduating and finding a job — all the way through helping them repay their student loans and save for the future.

This service is not intended to constitute any tax, investment or legal advice. If you need investment, legal, tax advice, and/or credit counseling, please consult with a professional within those areas.

Links to third-party financial resources are provided as a convenience for informational purposes only. Trellis Company does not endorse or approve any of the products, services or opinions of the entities or individuals associated with these links.  Trellis Company bears no responsibility for the accuracy, legality or content of any external site associated with the links provided or any subsequent links.

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