The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA for the 2007-08 academic year became available this month, and students may apply for aid until June 30, 2008.
But some colleges require a FAFSA be submitted by early spring in order to be considered for a school's in-house pool of grants and loans. States that dole out rewards may have deadlines as early as March 1.
this year graduate students will be eligible for even more federal aid. The cap on Stafford loans, the most common federal loan, originated on July 1 or later will rise to $20,500 per academic year from $18,500. If that amount doesn't cover the bill, students can take out a Graduate PLUS loan, once available only to parents.
You can borrow up to the full cost of your education, minus other aid received, as long as you're not 90 days late on any other debt obligation and you haven't discharged a student loan through bankruptcy in the last five years.
The U.S. Department of Education, which administers the FAFSA, said it generally takes less than an hour to complete an application online. And applications received electronically are processed as much as two weeks quicker than paper versions sent by mail.
Gather tax data. To fill out the FAFSA, you'll need information about your 2006 personal income tax obligation. So it's easier to complete the form if you've already done your tax return.
If you're coming up on a school or state deadline, you can make do with your 2006 Form W-2 or Form 1099, which you receive this time of year from employers (the W-2) or jobs where you worked as a freelancer or contractor (the 1099).