For graduating seniors, the FAFSA is a rite of passage. October 1 is the date when students can submit their FAFSA. But why do you need this important document? What does it do for you?

The FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. It allows you to receive grants, loans, and work-study funds for your college education. All students who attend a university will be asked to fill out this form. You may not qualify for a grant, but anyone who fills out the FAFSA will qualify for a $5500 federal loan. Many schools use the FAFSA to determine recipients of scholarships.

In order to fill out your FAFSA, you will need your parents’ 2015 tax return. The data from the return will be assessed and your family’s expected contribution will be determined. Even if you think you won’t qualify for aid because your family has too munch income, you may be surprised. There are many scholarships each year that go unclaimed, not all of them are need-based. And financial aid isn’t only for students with excellent grades – it’s for anyone who wants to pursue a higher education!

It only takes about 25 minutes to fill out the FAFSA, but the benefits can be enormous. If you are attending college or university in the Fall of 2017, you can fill out your forms any time between October 1 and June 30. Financial aid is distributed on a first-come, first-served basis – so fill it out sooner rather than later.

You can learn more about the FAFSA at this site.