Three in 10 undergraduate students don't file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, according to a 2016 brief from the National Center for Education Statistics based on 2011-12 data. If you haven't, it's worth doing (the deadline is June 30, 2018 for the 2017-18 academic year), said Matthew Boersen, a certified financial planner with Straight Path Wealth Management in Jenison, Michigan.
"A lot of people think that once it gets past January or February, it's not worth filling out anymore," he said.
Late filers may have lost their shot at some first-come, first-served state and college aid, but a completed FAFSA is required to apply for federal student loans (which, if you need to borrow, are better than private student loans on rates and borrower protections) and to qualify for many schools' merit-based aid.
Already filed? Alert the school if that bill shock stems from a change in your financial circumstances, said certified financial planner Melissa Sotudeh, chief compliance officer at Halpern Financial in Ashburn, Virginia. For example, if you've experienced a job loss, unexpected medical bills or other hardship.
"Once your child is in, a lot of schools want to work with you," she said. "It never hurts to call."