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Getting Ready for the FAFSA

If your child will be heading to college in the fall as a new or returning student, now is the time to start preparing to tackle the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

You can't begin filling out the FAFSA application until Jan. 1, but there are some things you can do now to get a head start on the financial aid process.

If you have never completed a FAFSA before, you and your child will each need to apply for a FAFSA PIN. You will need these PIN numbers to electronically sign the FAFSA and to access to your financial aid records. Here is where you can obtain your FAFSA PIN.

I'd also recommend that you know what to expect when filing out this financial aid application by taking a look at the FAFSA on the Web Worksheet. After printing out this FAFSA worksheet, you will know exactly what documents and information you will need to complete the FAFSA online early next year.

The FAFSA worksheet for 2011 is not available yet, but you can review the 2010-2011 worksheet. This worksheet should be nearly identical to the upcoming version.

If you aren't sure whether you should bother to complete the FAFSA, here are six reasons why you should take it seriously: 6 Reasons to File the FAFSA

More on CBS MoneyWatch

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Completing the FAFSA Without Caffeine
Lynn O'Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution and she also writes for TheCollegeSolutionBlog.
FAFSA application image by The Bent Tree. CC 2.0.