The Guide That'll Make Filling out the FAFSA® Less Terrible

The Guide That'll Make Filling out the FAFSA Less Terrible

Being accepted to college is stressful enough, and figuring out a way to pay for it may be even tougher. You’ve gotten in, but just when you think you’re done filling out paperwork, more forms roll in – this time for financial aid.

The most important of the aid applications? The FAFSA (the Free Application for Federal Student Aid). If you’re looking for help paying for college, this is one form you’re definitely going to need to complete. It’s the main form that the federal government, states, and schools use to award grants, scholarships, work study, and student loans. And while it’s only one application, the 100+ question form can still get pretty confusing. What does “EFC” mean? What’s an SAR? And what’s the difference between subsidized and unsubsidized loans, again?

You don’t have to be an expert to successfully complete and submit the FAFSA, but having some insider advice can make filling it out each year a lot easier. On top of decoding what all of that financial aid lingo actually means, Edvisors’ 2017-2018 edition of Filing the FAFSA®: The Edvisors Guide to Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid walks you through every section, line-by-line of the application, gives you tips to help you receive the most aid, and explains what to expect after you hit “submit.” (You can share this link with your parents because – let’s be honest – they’re probably going to help you complete it anyway.)

With the FAFSA having undergone a few major changes this year, this free pdf is even more important. For one, you can submit your application earlier than before, as early as October 1, 2016, instead of the old filing date on January 1st. You and your family can also use income and tax information from an earlier year (information from 2015, for example, instead of 2016 for the 2017-18 FAFSA), so you won’t have to use estimates and go back to update your information later.

No one likes it, but dealing with financial aid is something most college students will have to face at some point. The sooner you conquer the FAFSA, the better – it’ll make the next few years of the financial aid process, go much smoother…or at least make it a little less terrible.

If you’re looking for other advice on all things paying for college, check out more tips and strategies on how to plan and pay for college on