Today, students are graduating from college (if they studied hard) literally with a mortgage on their hands. Some students have upwards of $100,000 or more in student loans. Yes, and that's NOT with a graduate degree

As obvious as this sounds, the only way to receive assistance is to apply for it. The first step in applying for assistance is filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. The interesting thing about the FAFSA form is that it is not only used for federal aid, but also used for financial aid awarded by schools.

Many times students think the form is too difficult to fill out. Recently, the form has been simplified. Also as a big help, families who have already filled out their tax return will be able to transfer the data from the IRS to automatically complete some of the questions on the FAFSA form. If you haven't yet filled out your 2010 return, use your 2009 information and update the form when your 2010 taxes are filed.

Student aid, while based on need, is also based on a first-come, first-served basis. Incidentally, you may be surprised about the need part. Many students feel they wouldn't qualify, but you never know until you ask.

Some students feel they don't need financial aid. Perhaps they haven't seen how much tuition is, or they think mon and dad are simply going to hand the money over to them, if they even have it. Every bit that you receive that can be applied to expenses will help. It is important, however, if aid comes in the form of loans, that you have a plan to systematically pay it off once you graduate.

Deadlines for FAFSA applications vary depending on your state of legal residence; click the link to determine when yours is due.

Getting money for college is a great start; when are you going to fill out your FAFSA application?