Wondering how you'll pay for college? Start by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). If you don't, it could cost you thousands in grants, work-study, low-interest federal loans and need-based scholarships. It is also required for Bright Futures scholarships.

Filling out the FAFSA can be somewhat complicated. But don't let that deter you from applying. Instead, lower your stress level by taking heed of the following advice.

1. Go online. In the online version of the FAFSA:

-- There's a built-in guide to help you complete the application.

-- "Skip logic" automatically skips questions that aren't applicable to you.

-- The schools that you wish to receive your FAFSA information will get results faster.

Make sure you go to the right website: http://www.FAFSA.gov. Remember, you should never pay to submit your FAFSA.

2. Apply for a Personal Identification Number (PIN): You can use your PIN to electronically sign your FAFSA online. This is the fastest way to submit your form. If you're a dependent, at least one of your parents will also need to apply for a PIN to sign the FAFSA electronically. To apply for a PIN, visit http://www.pin.ed.gov.

Tip: Hang on to your PIN! You'll need it in the future.

3. Complete the "FAFSA on the Web" worksheet: For efficiency's sake, sit down (with your parents, if you're a dependent) and gather all of the necessary documents before filling out your FAFSA. Use the "FAFSA on the Web" worksheet to help you get organized.

4. Fill out your FAFSA: Complete sections 1 through 4 using your "FAFSA on the Web" worksheet; this should make filling out the FAFSA fast and easy.

5. Find identification numbers: Enter the identification numbers for your schools of choice (found on the FAFSA website) so your FAFSA results will be automatically sent to those colleges.

6. Calculate total earnings and tax return amounts: If you're filling out the FAFSA online, the online application will automatically calculate your total applicable earnings and tax return amounts.

7.Submit: See the directions on the website for online submission, or mail in your paper application to the address listed on your application.

After your application has been processed, your FAFSA results will be submitted to the schools to which you're applying. Colleges will use your results to determine your financial need and whether you qualify for scholarships.