Starting Jan. 1, Montana high school students interested in financial aid for college and their parents can begin filling out the federal application form and get free help from the nonprofit Montana Student Assistance Foundation.

Many students don't fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form because of misconceptions, like “My parents make too much money” or “I don't think I would qualify anyway,” according to Rhonda Safford, statewide coordinator of College Goal Montana.

“Each year these misconceptions result in many Montana students missing out on financial aid to help them pay for school,” Safford said. “The truth is, the FAFSA is for everyone who wants to pursue higher education. The only thing for certain is you won't get any financial aid if you don't apply.”

Filling out the FAFSA form is the first step for students to apply for college grants and student loans.

To see videos with a step-by-step explanation of the FAFSA process, visit SmartAboutCollege.org. Videos are also posted on SAF's YouTube channel, SAFTube4U. Help is also available by emailing FAFSAhelp@safmt.org or calling 877-265-4463.

Many colleges have priority deadlines for filling out FAFSA and seeking financial aid. Most Montana schools have a March 1 deadline, however the University of Montana has a Feb. 15 deadline.

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