QUAD CITIES - The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is confusing for college students, especially if you're just starting college.
The good news is there are people on both sides of the river that can help you fill out your application.
In Iowa, there's the Iowa College Access Network: ICAN. In Illinois, there's the Illinois Student Assistance Commission: ISAC.
Local 4 News spoke with James Yost from ISAC. He said the most common misconception people have is that you have to have your taxes done before you fill out your FAFSA. Not true.
You can fill out the FAFSA based on previous years taxes, and then go back and enter the correct data later.
Yost highly recommends filling out the application ahead of filing your taxes, because the earlier you apply, the better.
Another misconception is there is one specific deadline. Also not true. Different states have different deadlines. Iowa's deadline is July 1, while Illinois lets you apply until the money runs out.
"Even for the federal grants, that you could possibly get, you could actually fill those out up to a year after school starts, so if you fill them out the last day of school, you could still get retroactively paid for some of the federal grants. In terms of the state grants, they are appropriated, so eventually they run out, so that's why we always tell people to try to get it in as early as possible," Yost said.
Yost told us in 2015, Illinois MAP grants ran out February 22. So, applying as soon as possible means you could get a better shot at more grant money.
He also says the hardest mistake to correct is an incorrectly entered Social Security number. To avoid that, Yost says you should look at your Social Security card, even if you have your number memorized.
Another thing to note: Next year, the deadlines are changing. You'll be able to start filling out your FAFSA starting Oct. 1. That means seniors this year will have to file again for next year starting in October.
"They're going to have to fill out the FAFSA twice in a year, because they're changing the deadline, so make sure you remember Oct.1, since that's only going to be about a month and a half into your first school year, that you're going to have to fill that out again. That's definitely something to consider, and same thing for juniors, you're going to have to fill it out Oct.1, and that's the beginning of your senior year when you might not know where you're going to go to school," Yost said.
Click here to start the process of filling out your FAFSA.
For common questions about the FAFSA process, check their FAQ page.
If you want to find your state's deadline, click here.
For an ICAN (Iowa) representative to contact, click here.
For an ISAC (Illinois) representative to contact, click here.
ISAC (Illinois) has a handy texting service to let you know when deadlines are available and other information, available at 309-306-7066
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