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If you're headed to college or about to send your child there, you may need a little financial help. Fortunately, there's plenty of financial aid available for college — and it all starts with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or the FAFSA. Work-study programs, student loans, and federal or state grants all require the FAFSA. Applying with the FAFSA can be complex and challenging, but resources are available.

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1. Create Your Account and FSA ID

You require an FSA ID for every step of your FAFSA application. You need it to sign your FAFSA form online and submit it. The college applicant needs their own FSA ID, and parents who have to report their financial information need a separate ID. New FAFSA applicants and parents can use their FSA IDs immediately. If you've filled out a FAFSA before and are renewing it for your next school year, you need a new FSA ID and may have to wait a day or two for account verification.

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