Every year, my daughter’s college requires me to submit a FAFSA form. Although it’s last year, that makes a huge difference to her assistance package.

The FAFSA form opens the door to the safe for financial aid. Even if you don’t think you’ll qualifyโ€”or think it’s a waste of timeโ€”do it. Your financial situation may change from year to year and colleges need to know.

You have from October 1 of this year to June 30 of next year to submit the form for the 2022-23 school year. While the model has been difficult to work with in the past, the government has simplified it.

Most importantly, the FAFSA helps the college determine the “expected family contribution (EFC)”, which is the amount of money families are expected to pay out of pocket each year.

According to student aid website PayforEd.com, “a completed FAFSA shows that the college can pay the family and allow for an appropriate debt structure.” Student loan decisions are becoming more and more important to a college’s affordability. A better debt structure that limits parental liability and improves student loan repayment and forgiveness options.โ€

Filling out the FAFSA may qualify the student for grants that do not have to be repaid. I am always amazed at how much non-loan aid is left on the table every year. About $3.7 billion in Bell grants goes unclaimed.

do not wait. Federal and school aid is limited. Even ‘merit-based’ grants that are not linked to financial need may run out. The early bird gets the worm.