Families of college-bound students can now file key financial aid forms. It takes some legwork to make sure you're ready.
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid for the 2018-19 academic year has been available as of Oct. 1. Colleges, as well as federal and state governments and other groups, use FAFSA to determine eligibility for need-based financial aid. (Oct. 1 was also the start day to file the CSS Profile, which is required by nearly 400 colleges and scholarship programs for their own aid programs, according to the College Board.)
FAFSA-filing rates have ticked up in recent years as families look for strategies to reduce the rising costs of college, said Rick Castellano, a spokesman for student loan company Sallie Mae.
"Those cost-saving measures include completing the FAFSA," he said.
In Sallie Mae's 2017 "How America Pays for College" report, 86 percent of families said they had filed the FAFSA, the highest rate in the survey's 10-year history. A decade ago, 74 percent said they had filed it. (For this year's survey, Sallie Mae polled 800 parents of undergraduate college students ages 18 to 24, as well as 800 undergraduate students ages 18 to 24.)