This week, First Lady Michelle Obama spoke at an Alexandria, Virginia high school to parents and students about the importance of applying for federal financial aid using the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). As this story has hit the media, many questions have emerged about the FAFSA. Here are the answers to 3 questions about the fundamentals of the FAFSA: 1. What is the FAFSA and why is it important? First of all, the acronym FAFSA stands for "Free Application for Federal Student Aid." The FAFSA is the main application that students use to apply for federal loans and grants. Also, many colleges use information from the FAFSA to award institutional aid. The FAFSA can be assessed at https://fafsa.ed.gov/. 2. When is the FAFSA available? The FAFSA is released in early January each year. Since there is a finite amount of federal funding dedicated to student aid, it is advisable to fill out the information as early as possible. 3. Who should use the FAFSA? Students who are planning to attend college in the fall should apply for federal aid using the FAFSA. There are families who feel that, because of their income level, they will not qualify for federal student aid and decide to skip this process. Because many universities use information from the FAFSA to award institutional aid, I recommend that everyone who is eligible, fill out the form. For more information on the FAFSA go to the OFFICIAL Federal Student Aid website. __________ Sia Knight is an author, independent college counselor and youth development specialist. Find out more about how she assists families with the college prep process by clicking here.