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Saturday is a big day. N.C. A&T is celebrating homecoming. And Game 4 of the World Series is that night.

For college students, it’s FAFSA Day, which in the world of higher education looms about as large as final exams.

So what is FAFSA Day?

It’s a day once a year where college students and their families can get face-to-face help with the FAFSA from college financial aid administrators and financial aid specialists. The College Foundation of North Carolina puts it together each year.

What exactly is FAFSA?

It’s an acronym that stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. It’s the form that undergraduates and graduate students have to fill out to determine their eligibility for federal financial aid — that is, Pell Grants, student loans and work-study programs at two-year and four-year colleges.

Public and private universities also use the FAFSA to help determine how much financial aid to give their students.

Graduates of Guilford County high schools must fill out the FAFSA to be eligible for Say Yes scholarships.

Note the first word in the acronym: “free.” Filling out the FAFSA is always free. There’s also no charge to attend FAFSA Day events.

What’s new this year?

Previously, college students entering school in the fall could file the FAFSA starting Jan. 1 of that year using the previous year’s tax data.

Starting this year, the U.S. Department of Education moved the filing date to Oct. 1. Because people don’t file their taxes until long after that date, students and their families must use earlier tax filings.

Here’s how it will work this year: Students going to school next fall — fall 2017 — can file the FAFSA now using 2015 tax info.

For students in college in fall 2018, FAFSA filing opens Oct. 1, 2017 using 2016 tax data. And so on. This is a permanent change.

The feds say the earlier filing date means students will have more time to complete the financial aid process. But they also say they expect some colleges to move their financial aid deadlines forward. When in doubt, contact the financial aid office at your college.

Where are local events?

There’s one in Guilford County — on Guilford Technical Community College’s main campus in Jamestown. It’s in the library, otherwise known as the Learning Resource Center, which is next to the Medlin Campus Center. The event will run from 9 a.m. to noon.

Elsewhere, several area schools also will have a FAFSA Day on Saturday:

• Rockingham Community College (in the Advanced Technologies Building)

• Alamance Community College (in the Main Building on the Graham campus)

• Winston-Salem State University (in the Elva Jones Computer Science Facility)

• Randolph Community College (in the Continuing Education & Industrial Center)

• Davidson County Community College (in the B.E. Mendenhall Jr. Building).

For more sites and to register, visit www.cfnc.org/fafsaday or call (866) 866-2362.

What should I bring?

Students and parents should bring 2015 tax documents.

Before Saturday, students and one parent should get a Federal Student Aid ID from the U.S. Department of Education website at fsaid.ed.gov. They also should complete a FAFSA on the Web Worksheet (available at fafsa.ed.gov) to help collect and organize financial information.

What if I’m busy?

There are two more FAFSA Days scheduled for Greensboro in November: Nov. 12 at N.C. A&T’s General Classroom Building, and Nov. 29 at Mount Zion Baptist Church in Greensboro.

Branches of the State Employees’ Credit Union will offer FAFSA help by appointment during the week of Dec. 5.

More information?

Visit fafsa.ed.gov and studentaid.ed.gov or call (800) 433-3243.

For more information about North Carolina colleges and the college application process, visit the College Foundation of North Carolina at CFNC.org.

Contact John Newsom at (336) 373-7312 and follow @JohnNewsomNR on Twitter.

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