Filling out the FAFSA form is perhaps the most confusing part of the entire financial aid process. Much of this confusion comes from the fact that the FAFSA form requires information from your tax return. Many of the categories of information requested are not familiar to people who hire someone to complete their annual tax return. Perhaps the best thing to do is to review a blank FAFSA form before you actually sit down to complete one online. You can contact your tax preparer or seek advice elsewhere in case there are categories or terms you don’t understand.  Again, you should avoid waiting until right before the deadline, since it may take a while to get answers to your questions. Accurately completing your FAFSA is going to generally require you to have your most recent year’s tax return completed, as mentioned. Not having this will leave you guessing on a lot of numbers and will require you to go back and correct the information later. You can check on the status of your FAFSA application through the FAFSA website (using your PIN number). It usually takes 1-2 weeks while applications can be processed within a day or two of submission. Checking your status will help you to know whether or not you completed your form correctly, not what you are going to receive in terms of aid. The information about your actual aid packages will be provided by the various schools you are interested in attending.

More about federal financial aid

The financial aid department will help you begin to sort out your financial aid options once your application is processed. You should show the utmost courtesy, respect, and patience when you contact them. Remember, these are the people who are trying to decide how to divide up a school’s limited financial aid resources! One of the biggest mistakes new students make is assuming that they’ve secured financial aid for their entire college career. In reality, you need to complete a FAFSA and most state applications every year you wish to receive financial aid. Most schools also require students to re-qualify or re-apply for programs unique to their school. You may want to consider hiring a professional in case all this still sounds overwhelming, or if it’s hard to imagine finding the time to do this. Just be aware that there are numerous financial aid scams out there, and no one can guarantee that you will receive certain types of financial aid. Students who are need of financial aid  to pay for college can apply for both federal and state aid. Because each type of aid uses different formulas to determine eligibility, those who don't qualify for federal aid may be eligible for state aid.