Every family should complete (minimally) the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form in January of the student's high school senior year.
Regardless of the family’s income and assets, there are federal and state entitlement programs for every student, the most common being the Direct/Stafford loan.
Additionally, many colleges require the FAFSA form in order for the student to qualify for merit awards and scholarships. These can be offered as a result of academic, athletic, artistic or even leadership excellence.
Along with the FAFSA form, some colleges require the CSS/PROFILE form, and many private schools require their own aid forms.
Many families assume they make too much money to qualify for financial aid, but there are many factors that determine eligibility (especially private colleges). The way to accurately determine your eligibility is to learn your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). You should do this when your student is a high school sophomore or, when your student starts their junior year in high school.
By finding out EARLY what the colleges and universities will likely require you to pay for the education, it will give you more time to plan on how you will get the money to pay your fair share and will help the student select a college or university that is affordable based on what the family can spend.
Also keep in mind, the Federal Methodology Formula that is used to calculate the family’s EFC changes every year. Therefore, just because you do not qualify for aid in one year, does not mean you will not qualify the next.
SEE ALSO: 5 Financial Aid Resources for Parents