January is the month that many families file their Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA. Their is no fee to file and the main thing parents and students need to know about the FAFSA is that to meet most college financial aid priority deadlines (Feb 1-Mar 1), they will need to file an estimated FAFSA initially. Most families estimate using their prior year tax return unless there has been a significant change in income. After that, parents can correct the FAFSA as soon as they have completed their new return.
Some families wonder if they should file a FAFSA because they think their income level is too high to qualify for most grants. Although they may be correct about their eligibility for grants, the FAFSA is often required for student loans and scholarships so any family that wants outside financial support of any kind should file a FAFSA. Families should also check the financial aid website for colleges to see if colleges to which they have applied also require the College Scholarship Service Profile or CSS Profile which is a College Board product that requires a fee and may have a different deadline.