Most colleges' deadlines to apply for financial aid will be in approximately the next month. And every college bound senior who wants to be considered for financial aid should fill out the FAFSA. In fact, if you haven't submitted it yet, you should do that as soon as possible.
But the FAFSA gets so much air time as the crucial first step in applying for aid that some families overlook other forms colleges can require in addition to the FAFSA, namely, the CSS Profile and the colleges' own, separate forms.
Senior families, there is only one guaranteed, mistake-free way to make sure you file the correct forms–visit the financial aid section of each college's website and verify what they require. That's your first step.
Even colleges that share the Common Application for admission can have entirely different requirements to apply for financial aid. Don't rely on word-of-mouth. Don't even rely on a college guidebook. Visit the sites individually and print up the pages that list the financial aid application requirements for each.
You can find even more advice in our “Financial Aid and Scholarships” video. It’s $12.99 and available as a streaming download.