College-bound students can start the quest for financial aid by completing the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid,) available each January 1 for the upcoming school year. The application can be filled out online at FAFSA.ed.gov.
Although the application asks for recent tax information that you may not have yet, you can estimate the numbers, submit the FAFSA now, and update it later. This is important since some aid is available on a first come-first served basis.
(Tip: for your privacy, alphabetically list the schools you would like to receive your FAFSA information so that the schools can't decipher your preferences.)
Even if you do not believe you will qualify for need-based aid, keep in mind that some schools require a completed FAFSA to award merit aid or provide loans; and if your financial circumstances unexpectedly change, you'll need a FAFSA on file to record the changes that may qualify you for aid.
For free assistance with your FAFSA call 1-800-4FED-AID; or view YouTube videos accessible through the FAFSA website; or attend a Fairfax County FAFSA workshop http://www.collegeaccessfairfax.org/.Guidance about more of the college admission process is privately available from SJC College Counseling. Visit BetterCollegeChoices.com to find out more.