Rachel Crawford loves working with kids at The Kids Club, a before- and after-school program. She works part-time while studying for a graduate degree in school psychology, hoping to work with children every day.

She is just starting the application process, which includes applying for financial aid.

“If I didn't apply to FAFSA, I don’t think I would be able to go to grad school," said Crawford, referring to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

FAFSA can seem overwhelming, especially for someone doing it for the first time.

What You Need To Know

  • The FAFSA opened on Oct. 1, while there’s no hard deadline, schools might have their own

  • FAFSA is a dot gov website, and it's also free to fill out

  • When the FAFSA asks for "your" information, it is referring to the student who is applying for aid

“You don’t really know what to fill out. There’s a lot of information that you might have not even thought of because it's demographic, because it's financial stuff, and you really do have to pull your tax information from over the years and you are doing the year before you would actually go, so it's in the past, which can be frustrating for records and finding copies of everything," Crawford said.

Now, she is a veteran of the financial aid process. She went to Siena College for a bachelor's degree and found herself applying for aid there too.

The FAFSA opened on Oct. 1, and while there’s no hard deadline, schools might have their own, so it's recommended students fill out the application as soon as they can.

“Really, what it does is it allows you to have some time, sit down with a financial aid counselor one-on-one and often, you’ll be in one of the first aid packages that go out," said Kathleen Fenlon, director of financial aid at Siena College.

FAFSA is a "dot gov" website and it's also free to fill out. Fenlon said it's crucial to make sure you are at the right website, but those are just a few of the common mistakes she sees.

“The FAFSA, when its being filled out, is going to ask for your adjusted gross income and your wages. When it's saying 'your' and it's using the word 'you' it actually means the student. Sometimes, parents are filling out the FAFSA for the student, which is great. But you want to make sure when it's asking about information for 'you,' you’re filling it out for your student.”

Having done it multiple times, Crawford also had some advice of her own.

“Doing it with a group of friends, like if you all have your laptops out in front of each other and you’re all helping each other fill it out. Also, when you are filling out the application, there are little question marks on most things that you might have a question on. If you hover over it, it will tell you more about what it is and what they’re asking for and things like that," Crawford said.