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It's time to fill out the FAFSA. Here's some tips on getting it done

Sydney Walsh / The Miami Herald
Students walk through the Florida International University's Modesto A. Maidique Campus on the first day of classes on Monday, August 22, 2022.

It’s that time of year again — time to fill out the FAFSA, the free application for federal student aid.

The form isn’t just for students applying to four-year universities — FAFSA can help you pay for community college and technical school too.

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Veritza Kostovski is the director of the SmartPath Program at the nonprofit The Education Fund. She knows the forms can be confusing and says it’s important to ask for help if you need it.

“I have seen that there's a lot of misconceptions about the FAFSA. So I just want to say, it's about getting money to go to school to achieve your dreams of a postsecondary education,” Kostovski said. “So don't be afraid to take that leap and fill it out and ask for help, because there are people here that will assist and help and they want to help the students.”

Kostovski says students should fill out the FAFSA as soon as possible to have the best chance of qualifying for grants from the federal government and scholarships from colleges and universities. That means getting your paperwork and identifying documents together now.

Students whose parents are undocumented can still qualify for federal aid — but students who are undocumented themselves cannot.

Still, Kostovski says even if you don’t have a social security number, you still have options for getting help paying for higher ed, including the American Dream Scholarship at Miami Dade College.

“What I suggest to the students is…to not be afraid to disclose that to their counselors. Because that's the only way that they will know that they are undocumented and that's the only way that they will be able to receive assistance,” Kostovski said.

There are also options for students who are unaccompanied minors or who are not living with a biological parent or legal guardian. If that’s you, Kostovski says it’s best to tell your school counselor or your College Assistance Program advisor so they can help with the application process.

Tips on filling out the FAFSA

  • To access the 2023-2024 FAFSA form click here
  • For guidance from Miami-Dade County Public Schools click here
  • For guidance from Broward County Public Schools click here
  • For guidance from the School District of Palm Beach County click here
  • For information on Miami Dade College’s American Dream Scholarship click here
  • For a list of scholarships and resources for students who are undocumented click here
  • check out this episode of NPR's Life Kit on how to fill out the FAFSA
Kate Payne is WLRN's education reporter