In January and February each year, I encourage parents in my practice to file their FAFSA's. They either reply that they did it already on January 1 or that they are waiting for all their tax documents to arrive so that they can file their tax return first.
The second answer makes the most sense to people, however it is not the best answer.
Families who want their children to have the most scholarship and grant options need to file the FAFSA by Feb. 15 in most cases. Some can wait until March 1. It all depends on the financial aid priority deadlines for the colleges where applications have been made. The reason that early FAFSA filing is important even if you think you are not need-based aid-eligible is that many colleges require early admission and FAFSA filing for students to be considered for merit-based scholarships.
Get out last year's tax return today and file an estimated FAFSA at www.fafsa.ed.gov. If your income was significantly different between 2011 and 2012, estimate your income using your end of year pay stub for last year or W-2 if you have it. You will have to correct your FAFSA when you have filed your tax return. The best process is to make the correction two weeks after your tax return is filed so that the FAFSA can be updated from the IRS database. The correction process is quick and easy and importing data from the IRS may prevent you from having to obtain an official IRS transcript later to verify your FAFSA.