What’s all the hype about the FAFSA? Why is it so important?

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is an application submitted to the federal government. It’s basically a snapshot of your financial situation. The information you submit on your FAFSA is used to determine how much federal and state financial aid you may be able to receive to help you pay for college.

Even if you don’t think you’ll qualify for financial aid, submit your FAFSA anyway. It’s not uncommon for students to assume they won’t qualify, only to be pleasantly surprised to find that they are eligible to receive one or more types of aid. Keep in mind that many scholarship applications now require a copy of your Student Aid Report (SAR), which is the report you receive after you submit your FAFSA.

By submitting the FAFSA, you’re not automatically signing up for student loans or committing to any colleges. You’re simply giving the college(s) you’re interested in attending an opportunity to discuss your financial aid options with you. So be sure to fill out the 2017-18 FAFSA as soon as possible after Oct. 1 this year. Visit FAFSA.gov for more information.

What if I’m still not sure which college I want to attend next year? Can I still submit my FAFSA?

That’s a great question! With all the different types of schools to choose from, it’s not always easy to decide where to begin your higher education.

One of the best ways to narrow down your college choices is to visit different campuses. Summer is the perfect time to check out the schools that interest you. Still can’t decide? It’s OK to put more than one school choice on your FAFSA; in fact, that’s a great idea, because if you’re shopping for the best fit, you can use the FAFSA to compare the colleges that you’d like to know more about.

Once you have some colleges in mind, use the ‘School Code Search’ option at FAFSA.gov to find the 6-digit school code for each college that interests you. Enter the codes one by one, clicking ‘Add’ after each code that you choose. Once you’ve added all of your codes, click ‘View Selected School Information,’ and you’ll see a customized table that displays information about all of your selected schools side-by-side. This tool is another great way to compare colleges.