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File your FAFSA now!

The decision to start college life comes with a lot of challenges – deciding which college to attend, choosing a field of study, picking out courses for the first semester, living quarters, etc. So it’s no wonder many students seem to wait until the last minute to file their FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

But those who procrastinate may be left out in the cold even if they just make the filing deadline.

“Students should complete the application as early as possible,” said Susan Roby, the assistant director of financial aid at St. Catharine College. “They should also follow-up with the school after submitting the application to see if any additional documentation is required.”

Students can file their FAFSA online by visiting www.fafsa.ed.gov , using tax forms from previous years, current W-2 forms or 2010 tax information.

“Even though many people haven’t filed their taxes yet, it’s time to file the FAFSA,” added Roby. “The applications are processed by the date they are received. All of the information doesn’t have to be complete for it to be filed, but it has to have all of the required signatures and estimated tax information to lock in the applications date to qualify for the maximum federal and state grants.”

Roby said funds are available on a first-come, first-served basis, so even if the deadline is, for example, March 15, the funds may run out as early as March 1.

“The priority dates for the state grants is March 15,” Roby said. “But last year, state grants ran out by March 5. Usually, you think you are guaranteed that money, but some students filed on March 14 thinking they would get the money. It’s a significant amount, almost $5,000. We’re telling people to file by March 1, but really, if they can’t apply no later than Feb. 1, then that would be great.”

When a student goes through the FAFSA filing process, they will be asked to provide information about family income and assets. This determines the yearly amount of money the federal government expects the student and parents to be able to pay toward a college education. The application is reviewed to see if the student can qualify for need-based aid.

If the student still hasn’t decided on which college they want to attend, they may choose up to 10 schools on their FAFSA application. That way, they can still file early even if they haven’t decided on a school yet.

For more information, contact the Financial Aid Office at St. Catharine College at (859) 336-5082, ext. 1211.

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