FAFSA stands for "Free Application for Federal Student Aid." It's a form you fill out, much like the 1040 tax forms. Like the tax forms, these are also super-fun and well-written government prose. The US Department of Education requires the FAFSA to receive any government money for college. They mean "free" because it doesn't cost money to apply for the money. It does NOT mean hassle-free, however. This form is how the government conducts a "need analysis" with information from your income tax forms. This "need analysis" determines your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) or "how much you can afford." (Yes, insert laugh track here.)
Would you prefer to get ONE year of money for college, or FOUR years of money for college? That's good news! Because you have to fill out the form for every year of college in order to get the money! Thank goodness we love these forms so much! For added fun, your EFC, or "how much you can afford" is based on the income of the entire family, and both parents. This can make it fairly awkward or complicated if you are separated or divorced.
Now correct me if I'm wrong here, but the government is NOT a bottomless pit of money. The government has a limited supply of funds. This money they provide for college is first-come, first served. I humbly suggest that you place yourself first in line. Be first in line each year you want money, too.
The first time you need to fill out these fun forms is during your eldest child's senior year. You must fill out these forms every year until your youngest graduates from college, for as long as you have a child attending college the following year.
You have plenty of time to be completely comfortable with this required paperwork. You're completely confident when you fill out your taxes each year, right? And, sadly, this is no different. They need a new form every year. Every. Single. Year.
Find out more about filling out the FAFSA in my free ebook! My ebook, Need Based Scholarships; FAFSA Information and Tips for Busy Parents, is free September 1-5, 2018. And, since the FAFSA should be filled out as soon as October 1 each year, there's no better time to get your free copy! Download it here.