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Time to apply for school aid

Photo by Nate McCullough

Photo by Nate McCullough

CONYERS -- Students planning to go to college next year can start applying for financial aid soon.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid became available to file with the Department of Education on Jan. 1.

Every student who plans to be in college for the 2011-12 school year needs to file this form, which is a financial application used by all colleges and universities across the United States to determine financial aid for students.

FAFSA is not only used by the government for eligibility for Pell Grants and Stafford Loans, but it is also used by the colleges and universities to help determine a student's eligibility for various grants and scholarships. Many colleges and universities require the FAFSA even for non-need based sources of funds, such as certain scholarships and academic awards.

Most colleges have financial aid priority deadlines that fall from February through April, and some colleges may have earlier ones. The FAFSA can be submitted with estimated tax information -- you can always go back and update it later after the taxes are completed.

The FAFSA will ask for the parents' income and assets, the student's income and assets and some basic demographic information. Most of the information can be taken from the most recent tax returns, bank statements and investment statements.

Starting in January and continuing until graduation in May, many high schools will schedule parent and student meetings for those who need more information or help with the financial aid process.

"There are many opportunities for students and parents to receive assistance with the FAFSA and other forms required for college admissions," said Cindy Ball, director of community relations at Rockdale County Public Schools. "We encourage all students to talk to their counselor and plan to attend special events at their school that are designed to help them choose and apply for secondary education."

Students can file the FAFSA on a paper form, which can be acquired through high school guidance counselors or a college financial aid office. However, it is highly recommended that students file using the online FAFSA form at www.fafsa.ed.gov.