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The FAFSA is a Free Application for Federal Student Aid which students and parents must apply for in order to become eligible for federal and state financial aid. The application is due in the State of Indiana by March 10, 2012. Once it is processed, the U.S. Department of Education sends students and the select colleges a report which designates the type of aid a student qualifies to receive. College financial aid offices take these reports and then put together a financial aid package for each student who has applied to attend the college in the following fall. These financial aid packages generally begin appearing in the mail in the late spring—late April, May, and even into June.

The application is complicated. What students and parents need is their 2011 federal tax information; records of untaxed income; and information on savings, investments, and other assets. All assets must be reported accurately for both the student and his/her parents. Students and parents must file the application online. To do so, both students and parents need an identifying PIN. This PIN should be requested at www.pin.ed.gov. Applying early for this PIN can help make the process quicker than waiting until you are ready to file the application.

Filing FAFSA is a critical part of all college-bound students’ responsibilities. Even if families believe they are not eligible for financial aid, filing the FAFSA is a “safety net” should something come up which would require the student to have financial assistance in order to go to college. Some scholarship programs might also use FAFSA reports as part of their scholarship requirements.

FAFSA can be filed beginning January 1, 2012.