Deadlines are critical in the financial aid process. You must read the information from your colleges carefully and submit your forms (FAFSA/CSS PROFILE/Institutional) accordingly. Here are the quick things you need to know:
FAFSA: Free Application For Federal Student Aid
Every school where you are applying for financial assistance requires this form.
Prior to registering for the FAFSA, you must secure an FSA ID. Both student and parent should register for this username and password in October at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/.
Students must file the FAFSA after October 1 and before February 1 and submit it to the processing center.
This timing will necessitate using tax information from the "prior-prior" year. For example, if applying for aid beginning in 2018, you can use federal tax information from 2016.
Processing of the FAFSA is free; the student indicates the schools that should receive the information using 6-digit codes available at the FAFSA Web site.
After the processing is complete, the student will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) via email that should be carefully checked for accuracy. Corrections are made on this form and it is returned to the processor for the necessary changes. The FAFSA allows you to send this report to 10 schools, but once you've received an SAR from a particular school, you can go into the FAFSA, remove the school, and add a new school.
Many private colleges and universities that wish for more information than what's on the FAFSA require this form.
Registration is $25 (payable by credit card) and the cost for your information to be sent is $16 per school. Because the PROFILE charges you a fee for every school to which you send your information, wait to file the form until you have finalized your college list!
Complete the form and submit to CSS (the processor). They will process your form and send your information to each school on your registration form.
Plan to file the PROFILE by November 1 for early applications (EA or ED) and by January 15 for Regular Decision applications, unless otherwise noted by your college. This will necessitate the use of estimated tax return (from the prior year) information.