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FAFSA

In the gym at Bayshore High School in Bradenton, 16-year-old Yazmin Ramirez is handed a sheet of paper describing her life's work.

"I'm a maid-slash-housekeeper. My yearly income is $19,510. I'm a dropout. I'm single. I have no children. And my balance right now is $1,202,” said Ramirez. “This is depressing, but we'll see what I can do with it.”

At midnight, Oct. 1, the rush begins.

The IRS Data Retrieval Tool is down.

If those words don't send a shiver up your spine, it means you're not a high school senior or college student rushing to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.

The FAFSA is the form — famously complicated and difficult to finish — that stands between many low-income students and the federal, state and institutional aid they need to pay for college.

Robin Sussingham / WUSF

College can be expensive, and most families need some help paying for it. To get that help, they have to fill out something called the FAFSA  -- "the Free Application for Federal Student Aid." The FAFSA is important. In 2014, Florida high school grads left unclaimed more than $167 MILLION  in federal grant money  -- which they wouldn't have had to pay back -- because they didn't turn in a FAFSA.