If you are planning to attend college or vocational school, you already know there are a lot of steps to take before you walk onto that campus and sit down for your very first lecture.  But don’t forget one of the most vital steps – filling out the FAFSA.  By filling out the FAFSA, you are applying for federal student aid and taking the first step in gaining access to grant, loan, or work-study money.  This important process has become increasingly instrumental for millions of students needing help to achieve the dream of attending college.

The price of higher education continues to rise each year and can leave prospective students wondering how to prepare for college.  The continual increase in the number of people submitting FAFSAs is indicative of this rising cost.  That is why it is essential to fill out the FAFSA accurately and as soon as possible – usually starting in January, before the fall you are planning to attend school.

A list of required documents and where to find crucial federal, state, and school deadlines can be found in this helpful infographic.  It’s important to gather the required documents (such as social security number and financial information) in order to complete the application.  Without this information, your FAFSA will be incomplete.  If you or your parents have not yet completed and filed your taxes, go ahead and estimate from the previous year’s tax filing.  But remember – it’s imperative that you don’t forget to update your application once your taxes have been filed to ensure your FAFSA is current and accurate!

Please reference the visual for a full list of sources.

This piece was originally published on: OnlineColleges.com