Many colleges have a Feb. 1 or Feb. 2 deadline for the submission of financial aid forms, either the FAFSA, the CSS PROFILE, or both. Make sure that you know the deadlines for the schools to which you applied — while turning the form in late to your school may not be fatal to your chances for financial aid, it certainly will lessen them greatly. Colleges give aid first to those who meet the deadline, so if your form is late, you will receive aid only if there is any money left for the school to give.
This also means that you and your parents need to complete the forms even if your parents’ tax return is not completed. It is certainly more difficult to do the FAFSA and PROFILE without a return to reference, but it can be done. Once your parents’ tax return is in, they can import the information from the return to the FAFSA as an update. If you have any questions about financial aid, the federal government has a Financial Aid Toolkit website which will help you decipher the ins and outs of the process.
Two more things to remember. First, some colleges are using the list of colleges on your FAFSA form to infer your preferences. If you want to prevent them from doing this, list the colleges alphabetically! Second, the financial aid process is not over when you file the FAFSA and PROFILE. Most colleges have a list of additional forms and information that they request, which may include your actual tax return from 2013 and/or 2012 or an IRS Tax Transcript, which you can request from the IRS after you have filed your return. Stay on top of all the forms required and the deadlines for them, as both will differ from college to college.