FAFSA Application Deadline is this Thursday, March 2nd, 2017!

The FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is the primary form that the federal government, states and colleges use to award grants, scholarships, work study and student loans. Grants and scholarships are free, but you have to earn the work study dollars and pay back the loans.

You can find the application at fafsa.ed.gov. The following two FAFSA changes take effect this year:

    • The form for each year will become available three months earlier than it had previously, in October instead of January. You can access the FAFSA for the 2017-18 school year on Oct. 1, 2016. This better aligns the financial aid and college application processes and gives students more time to apply for aid.
    • Families can use their prior-prior year tax information to complete the form instead of the prior year’s tax information. That means using 2015 tax information instead of 2016 tax information to complete the 2017-18 form. This allows families to file the FAFSA before they file their previous year’s taxes.

Here’s a crash course in how to complete the application, with the full details below. Depending on your situation, you might not have to complete every step.

1. Make your FSA ID.

2. Add FAFSA deadlines to your calendar.

3. Gather the right documents.

4. Use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.

5. List the colleges where you want to apply.

6. Complete additional financial aid forms if they’re required.

7. Review your Student Aid Report.

8. Update your FAFSA if necessary.

9. Go through the verification process if you’re selected.

10. Review your financial aid award package.

11. Appeal your award if you believe you deserve more.

12. Renew your FAFSA every year of college.