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Students can begin filing for financial aid

Incoming and current college students may now complete their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). In addition, students seeking in-state tuition or state grants in North Carolina may complete the Residency Determination Service (RDS).

To determine eligibility for federal and state financial aid, college-bound students should complete the FAFSA.

The first step is to obtain a Federal Student Aid Identification (FSA ID) for the student and one parent/legal guardian.

The FSA ID will give students access to the Federal Student Aid online system and can also serve as a legal signature.

Oct. 1 was the first day the FAFSA may be completed for the 2019-2020 academic year; tax information from 2017 should be used to complete the form.

Students are encouraged to submit the FAFSA as soon as possible because North Carolina will make awards until grant funds are depleted.

Another important step for receiving financial aid is establishing in-state residency through RDS.

It’s important to confirm residency regardless of what North Carolina college or university a student plans to attend. RDS determines a student’s eligibility for in-state tuition and state grants. It is ideal for students to use RDS before applying to North Carolina schools.

After completing the form, students should save their Residency Certification Number (RCN) for their records. RDS may be completed at any time, and the RCN will be valid for 15 months, so students planning to attend college in the fall are well within that time frame.

“Completing the FAFSA and RDS early will help students take advantage of important financial aid opportunities. Because North Carolina state financial aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, now is the time to apply to ensure you receive the aid for which you are eligible,” says Laura Morgan, vice president of communications, savings and legal affairs at College Foundation, Inc. “Financial aid is a very important piece of the college application process, and students should apply right away even if they haven’t yet determined where they may attend school.”

During October, CFNC is hosting its annual college access event, now known as NC Countdown to College.

The first two weeks of the event will focus on RDS and FAFSA completion.

Students and families are encouraged to visit the NC Countdown to College website and consult with high school counselors to receive assistance to successfully apply for financial aid, both on a state and federal level.

In addition to NC Countdown to College, CFNC collaborates with the North Carolina Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators and the State Employees’ Credit Union to sponsor FAFSA Day on Oct. 27.

Visit CFNC.org/FAFSADay to find more information on locations around the state where students and families can go to receive assistance on completing the FAFSA.

Students interested in participating in NC Countdown to College should first make a profile with College Foundation of North Carolina. CFNC assists students and families as they plan, apply and pay for college.

To access additional resources and information, learn more about CFNC and prepare for NC Countdown to College, visit CFNC.org.