For anyone thinking about enrolling in a postsecondary program for the 19-20 academic year - high school seniors, current college students, adults returning to school - Fall 2018 is an important time.

Beginning October 1, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) opens. What is the FAFSA, and why is it a big deal?

While it may seem like the FAFSA is just another in an endless sea of forms one must fill out for college, it, along with the actual college application, is the most important. Why? Because it unlocks financial resources that help students pay for their education. Not only is it the gateway to federal dollars, colleges use the information on the FAFSA to determine the amount of institutional aid they award as well. It's also important to complete the FAFSA as early as you can, as financial aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.

We cannot stress this enough: EVERYONE should complete a FAFSA - regardless of income level. Here's a FAFSA checklist for you:

  1. Obtain your FSA ID.
  2. Once you have your FSA ID, make an appointment with the College Now advisor in your school or with an advisor in the College Now Resource Center.
  3. Gather the materials you'll need.

There is a wealth of information on the FAFSA web page, but the process can still be challenging. College Now is here to help. Our services are always free.