FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The FAFSA must be completed in order to apply for state, federal, and institutional financial aid and should be done as soon as possible after January 1st of the year for which you are requesting aid. Even if you don't think you'll qualify for need-based financial aid, you should still complete the FAFSA to be eligible for student loans.
Keep in mind that the FAFSA can be completed for FREE at fafsa.ed.gov. Several websites offer help filing the FAFSA, but these sites charge a fee and are not affiliated with or endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education. When filing the FAFSA, make sure you go directly to fafsa.ed.gov to evade any charges or scams; avoid any fafsa websites that end in .com. If you need assistance with filling out the FAFSA, you can get free help from a financial aid administrator at your college, the FAFSA's on-line help at fafsa.ed.gov, or volunteers at College Goal Sunday.
To ensure that you don't get scammed, keep these tips in mind when filing the FAFSA:
File the FAFSA at fafsa.ed.gov.
After completing the FAFSA on-line, exit the application and close the Internet browser.
Keep your Federal Student Aid PIN in a secure place and don't tell anyone your PIN.
Never give personal information over the phone or Internet unless you made the contact. There are FAFSA scammers who contact people via phone or email to try and solicit personal and financial information.
Avoid using websites that ask for credit card information when filling out the FAFSA. A company that charges for financial aid advice is not committing fraud unless it doesn't deliver on promises, but remember that you can receive free help with filling out the FAFSA.
For more information about financial aid fraud or to report fraud, call the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-382-4357 or visit ftc.gov/scholarshipscams.