FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is the form parents need to complete to determine if their high school senior is eligible for college financial aid in the form of grants, loans, and work-study opportunities. 

FAFSAs can be submitted to colleges on or after January 1st. You should complete the form as soon after January 1st as you can. Some states, including North Carolina, award a portion of available aid on a first come, first served basis.

You do not have to wait to submit the FAFSA until you file your taxes. File the form electronically, and check the “will file” box on the form. A benefit to filing electronically is that students may submit the form to up to 10 schools; the paper application allows for only 4 submissions.

  • The FAFSA is available at fafsa.ed.gov. You can get the Title IV school codes for all the schools you plan to list on the FAFSA at this site.
  • To file electronically, get a pin number for one parent and the student. Obtain the pin number from pin.edu.gov.
  • Get the following documents ready: federal tax return, social security numbers for parents and student, student driver’s license number, bank statements, investment statements, mortgage information, and untaxed income statements (1099 income, untaxed social security income, child support received, veteran benefits). Make copies of all documents.
  • Be sure to answer all questions on the FAFSA form.  If a question does not apply, use a zero or N/A.
  • Keep a copy of everything you file. Make a record of the date you send information. If you mail a form, use mail delivery confirmation.
  • If there are special circumstances that will affect your ability to pay your child’s tuition (supporting an aging parent, 2013 income reflects a one-time bonus or withdrawal from a retirement account or 401K, unusually high medical bills, upcoming reduction in work hours, etc.), you should make the college aware through a special circumstance notice.

Don’t assume that your child will not qualify for assistance. College is expensive, and many families are eligible for help with tuition.