It’s that time of year again… time to fill out your Federal Student Aid forms (FAFSA).

Many students struggle with costs associated with attending college and FAFSA might be one way to help ease some of the financial burden.

Read: How Much does College Actually Cost?

The application is a free financial aid resource to help make college more affordable. So, what are you waiting for?

Let’s get started.

The FAFSA form is available online every year right away in January and the hardcopy is available soon after.  

Fun fact: On average, it takes only 23 minutes to complete your FAFSA when you have all of the appropriate information needed!

So before you start, have these 7 things ready to go:

  1. FAFSA PIN. You can apply for PIN online. Your PIN is your personal fingerprint that will help you access your documents online. It will also serve as your signature when you submit your forms. Treat your PIN like any other password. Keep it safe, and don’t share it.

  2. Institution codes. Institution codes are unique identifiers for the schools you might attend. Make sure to find the code for every institution you you think you might go to. You can check out the full list of institutional codes here.

Read: How Many Colleges Should You Apply To?

  1. Social Security card and driver’s license. You will need your Social Security card and driver’s license (if you have one) to fill out parts of the form. Make sure that you type in your Social Security number exactly as it appears. Double check your Social Security number! Entering the wrong Social Security number is one of the top mistakes that applicants make.

  1. Tax forms. You’ll need your recent tax returns and W-2s. You will also need your parent or guardian’s tax returns or W-2s, if you are considered a dependent. Not sure if you are a dependent? Check with your parent or guardian. Haven’t completed your taxes. You can put in estimates for now. Once you have filed your taxes you can correct your application with the updated numbers.

  1. Additional financial information. You will need to disclose any grants, scholarships, military pay, welfare, social security income, and veteran’s benefits. Whew, that’s quite the list!

Read: A Short Scholarship Search Survival Guide

  1. Bank statements. A copy of your current bank statements, stocks, bonds and other investments are needed. If you can’t get these online, go ahead and give your financial institutions a phone call. They’ll be glad to help!

  1. Student aid deadlines. Deadlines are very important when filling out financial aid forms. Pay attention to official institution deadlines and federal and state deadlines. Most schools will list out the Financial Aid deadlines on their websites. Make sure to mark down the dates on your calendars so you don’t forget to submit by the deadline.

Bonus tip: keep a folder with copies of all your documents after submitting your application. You may need to reference your paperwork at a later date.

Remember, if you have any trouble along the way make sure to reach out for some extra help from school counselors, parents, guardians and friends. They are all great resources to help you through the process. You can also find additional resources on the FAFSA website, and they even do an “ask FAFSA” on twitter every month!

What’s the biggest question you have about the FAFSA? Let us know in the comments!

Authored by Christina Michaluk

Christina specializes in higher education. She writes about ways students can tackle college financing, from scholarships to FAFSA.