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    If you’re in your senior year of high school, you probably already know that it's to your advantage to complete the FAFSA in January or early February at the latest.  While the "official" deadline is much later, you'll want to do it early to maximize your chances at the limited funds available. Do you know the priority deadline for financial aid at the schools you’ve chosen to apply to? It might be worth a few phone calls to find out.

     Schools use these deadlines as cutoff points. Once they are reached, they begin to allocate funds from a variety of sources to students whose paperwork (or electronic filing) is all in order.

     Since the online FAFSA will get you (any your schools) the quickest results, that's the way for most families to go. The FAFSA can be filed any time after January 1st. If you prefer, you can wait until you have your income tax info and complete the FAFSA then. On the other hand, online filing allows for easy revisions, so estimating before your tax info is available is usually not a problem.

     I’d recommend that you download the pre-application worksheet.  Once you have a copy, take a few minutes to read it over and see what kind of information is required. Then, as employers, banks, etc. send you income tax documents, you can take a few minutes and fill in the required information.

     Once the worksheet is completed, get online and get your FAFSA filed as soon as you can (preferably no later than February 15th) so that you'll have a better idea of where you stand in terms of aid, and the colleges you've applied to will have will be able to put together an aid package for you.

     Lots of help is available online at the FAFSA web site. In addition, many high schools offer financial aid nights for students and parents. Finally, the financial aid office at any college you applied to will be more than happy to help with any questions you may have.

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