The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is a document that collects a family's personal and financial information. Based on that information, the federal processors use a federal methodology formula to calculate a family's estimated family contribution (EFC) toward their child's educational costs.

The FAFSA uses a family's income from the previous year; thus, the FAFSA cannot be filed until after January 1st of the student's senior year.

The FAFSA may be filed in one of two ways: on the paper form or on the web at www.fafsa.ed.gov.

Important: Students and parents who plan to file on line must get a PIN# , which serves as their electronic signature, prior to filing the FAFSA: www.pin.ed.gov

Parents and students may register for a PIN# as early as they wish prior to filing the FAFSA on line. Once the student and parent have a pin #, they must save it because it will be used for all future FASA filings.

Information from the FAFSA is used by colleges and universities to determine a student's eligibility for state and federal grants.

Because some scholarships require FAFSA information and because one can never predict future emergencies that might change their family's financial situation, all families are encouraged to file the FAFSA.