Scholarship opportunities open to area students

CONYERS — The first day to apply for need-based college grants through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is Oct. 1 ... and the sooner students turn in their application, the better.

Earlier applicants can qualify for more grants because applications are processed as they are received and once the money is approved for one student, it’s not available to someone who applies later in the year or waits until next year.

Having all your information and paperwork ready ahead of time can help simplify the application process.

Listed below are tips parents and teens can use so you don’t end up scrambling at the last minute.

Be first in line. The earlier families fill out the FAFSA, the better their chances of being in line for aid. Also, those who complete and submit the FAFSA early will receive their Student Aid Report sooner and may receive financial aid award letters from schools earlier.

Bring the basics. Before beginning the application, expedite the process by getting prepared. Both parents and students should create a username and password — a Federal Student Aid ID — and gather Social Security numbers, drivers license numbers, bank statements, tax returns and W-2 forms.

Get connected. For the second year, students and families can complete the FAFSA using the myStudentAid app on any Android or Apple device. Regardless of what device you use, remember that it’s always free, so watch out for sites that charge fees or make promises that sound too good to be true. Students can reduce the risk of identity theft by keeping their Federal Student Aid ID confidential, and reporting any suspected fraudulent account activity immediately.

Sync up. Using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool can expedite the process by automatically syncing and populating tax return information into the FAFSA. Note: the IRS Data Retrieval Tool is currently only available for those completing the FAFSA at fafsa.gov.

File every fall. Complete the FAFSA as a high school senior, and every year in college and graduate school. Filing a new FAFSA each year is the only way to remain eligible for federal student aid, and the amount of aid can vary year-over-year.

Visit www.studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa or reach out to your guidance counselor to get started today.