Now is the time to begin the financial aid application process for the 2013-2014 school year.

To determine your eligibility for financial aid, the first step is filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The application, which does not cost anything to complete, is developed annually by the U.S. Department of Education. The Department of Education offers more than $150 billion each year to help millions of students pay for higher education.

The updated 2013 version can be found here.

Most students cannot fill out the FAFSA without their W-2 forms, which employers typically deliver to employees by Jan. 31, so it's still somewhat early. However, the process of filling out the FAFSA will be considerably smoother if you gather the necessary documents ahead of time.

That leads us to today's blog topic: What items do you need to fill out the FAFSA? The Department of Education listed the following nine items:

  • Social Security card
  • Driver's license (if applicable)
  • 2011 W-2 forms and other records of money earned (employers usually deliver to employees by Jan. 31)
  • Your (and if married, your spouse's) 2011 Federal Income Tax Return (IRS 1040, 1040A, 1040 EZ; Foreign Tax Return; or Tax Return for Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Marshall Islands, the Federal States of Micronesia, or Palau)
  • Your parents' 2011 Federal Income Tax Return (only if you're a dependent student)
  • 2011 untaxed income records
  • Current bank statements
  • Current business and investment mortgage information, business and farm records, stock, bond and other investment records
  • Alien registration or permanent resident card (if you're not a U.S. citizen)

Now is the time to start compiling these documents to make sure you're prepared.

For more information about the best time to fill out the FAFSA, check out this short video:

You can also benefit from Grantham University's Financial Aid Checklist.

If you have any questions regarding the FAFSA, visit its website or call 1-800-4FEDAID. Current Grantham University students with additional questions are welcome to contact GU's financial aid office at, or by calling (866) 850-2980.