For the first time in 10 years, we won’t be filling out a FAFSA – that’s the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Our children have graduated from college and are working at jobs they love.

Thanks more to their efforts than ours, they graduated with much less student debt than the government’s College Scoreboard says is typical for the colleges they attended. Their scholarships and grants account for a big part of this, making their educations affordable.

For our part, we filled out the FAFSA every year to get the ball rolling.

The FAFSA is one key to paying for college.

The most important letter in that acronym is that first “F.” It stands for “Free.” Yes, filling out the FAFSA is free. But there’s another use for that word free. Free money beats your money or my money every time.

Without filing the FAFSA…

  • Your children aren’t eligible for most scholarships and grants. Scholarships and grants are free money.
  • Your children aren’t eligible for work-study. It’s not free money because they have to work for it, but it is a paycheck as they go to college.
  • Your children aren’t eligible for other federal student aid – Pell Grants, perhaps, or subsidized student loans.

The earlier you file your FAFSA, the better.

It’s tax season, and it’s also FAFSA season. The two go together. The FAFSA will ask for information that you will have on your federal tax return. You may be a last-minute filer of taxes, but don’t tarry with FAFSA. The priority deadline for filing the FAFSA is April 1 for FRCC (or earlier, depending on the college), and many colleges will dole out their financial aid first come, first served. So the earlier you file your FAFSA, the better.

You don’t have to do the FAFSA alone.

The best place to get help is College Goal Sunday. This is a national effort to help you with the form. Financial Aid professionals will help you fill out the form.

In Colorado, College Goal Sunday is Sunday, Feb. 9. There are 19 sites in Colorado, including three Front Range Community College sites – Boulder County Campus in Longmont, Westminster Campus, and Larimer Campus in Fort Collins. Come between 2 and 4 p.m. for help. It will be helpful if you bring:

  • Student’s Social Security number
  • Parent’s Social Security Number (if applicable)
  • Driver’s license (if any)
  • 2013 W-2 Forms and other records of money earned
  • 2013 untaxed income records – Social Security, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, welfare, or veterans benefits records
  • Your 2013 bank statements
  • 2013 business and investment mortgage information, business and farm records, stock, bond, and other investment records
  • Your alien registration card (if you are not a U.S. citizen)

It’s also helpful for you to register beforehand for a Personal Identification Number or PIN at . This will allow you to sign your FAFSA electronically for faster processing.

That’s it. Fill out the FAFSA as a first step in receiving financial aid. If you need assistance, come to College Goal Sunday.

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