College Plan Timeline:


Submit your FAFSA as soon as you can but don’t bother turning it in before January 1. It won’t be processed until then no matter how much of a jump you get on the process.

Complete your FAFSA as soon as you can to ensure you get the most money for college.

By this point you’ve probably heard the term “FAFSA” being thrown around quite liberally by counselors, your parents, and other students. The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is your key to federal financial aid.

The process is easy enough. You can fill out your FAFSA online (or in paper form, if you want it to take longer) anytime on or after January 1. The sooner you submit your FAFSA, the better chance you’ll receive an attractive financial aid offer since some aid is doled out on a first-come first-serve basis.

What do you need to fill out your FAFSA?

If you’re like most kids, you’ll start the FAFSA first, then determine what you’ll need. But as a heads up, here are some materials you’ll probably want to have on-hand to successfully navigate the sometimes confusing world of federal student aid:

  • Income records for you and your parents
  • Income tax returns for you and your parents
  • Bank statements, mortgage information, and investment records
  • A Federal Student Aid PIN, which allows you to electronically sign your application.

If you get stuck, check out our step-by-step instructions on how to complete your FAFSA.

FAFSA Tips and Tactics

As you proceed through the financial aid process, you’ll want to keep a few things in mind:

  • Guys, if you’re over the age of 18 you’ll need to register for the Selective Service to receive federal aid. This isn’t a big deal but can put a hold on your FAFSA application if you haven’t done it already.
  • Your counselor can help you obtain the forms you need if you can’t find them online. Make copies of everything you reference or send to FAFSA.

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Related Tools and Checklists

High School Junior Timeline and Checklist
High School Senior Timeline and Checklist

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