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Time for FAFSA

If you're hoping to get any kind of financial aid for medical school, it's time to start thinking about your FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The FAFSA filing period begins on January 1, and the sooner you submit your application, the better off you'll be.

Whether you want to get scholarships, grants, or loans, completing the FAFSA is the first step. This application gathers all the information financial aid offices need to determine the amount of financial support you're eligible for.

Many med schools use FAFSA as the first step in determining need-based assistance, whether you're seeking government funding, a tuition waiver, or other school-sponsored award. Always check with each school you're applying to for that school's specific requirements. And getting your application in early is important, because a lot of med schools distribute need-based financial aid on a first-come, first-served basis. This means that early applicants may have a better chance of getting more assistance, and later applicants may not get all they need if the school runs out of funds.

Even though FAFSA asks you to complete information from this year's tax return, don't wait until you've filed your taxes to submit your application. Just use reasonable estimates. You can then update the information once you file your taxes – even after you've submitted your FAFSA.

So how do you get started on your FAFSA? You can submit your application either online or in print. If you'd rather fill out the printed form, you should be able to get one from your school's financial aid office. To complete your application online, visit the official FAFSA website at www.fafsa.ed.gov. This website can also answer many questions you might have while filling out your application. Make sure you go to this official site. Some other sites may try to charge you to apply for financial aid or find scholarships. The FAFSA is free, so don't let yourself get duped.

So get busy on your FAFSA today. With the rising costs of medical school, make sure you give yourself the best possible chance for all the financial aid you deserve.

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