It’s FAFSA time. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid can now be submitted for the 2013 academic year. Have you started yours yet?

Maybe you haven’t gotten around to starting the FAFSA yet because you’re just a little confused about some things. What’s EFC? What if I don’t have all my paperwork ready yet? What happens if I miss a deadline?

Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked FAFSA questions.

When can I fill out the FAFSA?

Now. The FAFSA opens on January 1st, so don’t wait to start filling it out. Get it done sooner rather than later and you won’t risk missing all important deadlines.

Do I have to do it more than once?

You have to do a new FAFSA for every year you’re in school.

Should I fill it out online or on paper?

Filling out the FAFSA online makes it easier for you because each year your information is stored in a secure government database. That means when you go back to do your FAFSA the next year, you’ll only have to update that parts that have changed, no fill out the whole form over again.

What does EFC stand for?

EFC stands for Expected Family Contribution. The EFC is a number used by your school to determine how much federal student aid you are eligible to receive. There is often a lot of confusion surrounding the EFC number that you are given after filling out your FAFSA or FAFSA4caster. This number is not how much money you will have to pay for school or the amount of aid you will receive. It is a tool used by your college to build your aid package.

What if I don't have all the information I need right now?

If you're still waiting on tax documents or other necessary information for the FAFSA, fill it out the best you can. You can go back to edit or update information once you have everything you need.

What happens if I miss a FAFSA deadline?

Missing a FAFSA deadline can mean that your financial aid package is limited. Don’t miss out on the funding you need to achieve your education dreams because you waited too long to fill out your FAFSA. Find out your school’s financial aid filing requirements and do the FAFSA ASAP.

Are you ready to fill out your FAFSA? Remember to visit fafsa.ed.gov, the only official website for filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The FAFSA is free. Never pay to submit it.

If you have more questions, you can also visit Navigating the Real World for their Figuring Out the FAFSA edition.

Kylie K.