Attention high school seniors and parents: Have you submitted the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) yet? If not, what are you waiting for?

Students entering college in the fall need to complete the FAFSA to be eligible for any type of financial aid — that includes government loans and grants and various merit awards. And many schools award aid on a first-come, first-served basis, so once the 2007-08 FAFSA became available on Jan. 1, the race began.

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According to Rob LaBreche, president of consumer marketing for the College Loan Corporation, "Students and families who complete the FAFSA first are putting themselves in the best position to benefit from federal aid."

It's still early, however. And completing a FAFSA is simple. Paper forms are available at local libraries, high school guidance offices and college financial aid offices. But it's easier and faster to submit the FAFSA electronically. It's available at www.fafsa.ed.gov. (Be sure to get a PIN from the U.S. Department of Education first -- www.pin.ed.gov.) Not only is the electronic version processed more quickly, it also has built-in checks for accuracy.

In the FAFSA, you'll have to include tax information. Don't worry if you haven't received your W-2s yet — just estimate the information and correct it later. If the student expects to receive tuition payments from a college savings plan in the upcoming academic year, you will have to report the value of the plan as a parent asset (not as an asset of a dependent student as it was in the past.)

Don't forget to complete college-specific financial aid forms, which many schools require in addition to the FAFSA. Many private colleges and universities also require applicants to submit the College Board's CSS/Financial Aid Profile application. It helps private schools determine eligibility for nongovernmental aid. Visit profileonline.collegeboard.com for details.

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