The FAFSA is the main way for students to get financial aid for college. You can get scholarships if you do not do the FAFSA but grants and federal loans require it. To do the FAFSA the student and the parent (if the student is under 22) need to gather their tax information. The same information a person needs to file their taxes is needed to file your FAFSA. Given that some of the money is first come first serve and some states have very early deadline, it is a good idea to complete your taxes and then your FAFSA as soon as you get all your paperwork from companies you work for or earn interest from.
Now for the tricks.
1. Money belonging to the student is assumed to pay for college where the money belonging to the parent is considered only partially set aside for college. So any money belonging to the student should be used up first or moved to the parents name.
2. Also if the grandparent or other relatives want to help, do not give the student cash until the bill is due. For example a textbook would be better than the same amount in cash. The money the grandparent or relative has is not counted but once it is the students hands it is counted.
3. Income from a job is considered to be used for expenses for college and may keep the student from financial aid. However jobs on campus (work-study) are considered part of the financial aid. You can get a job off campus using work-study if it met certain requirements from the financial aid office.
4. The FAFSA does not count into the formula any debt you have, however it will count any cash, therefore pay off any debt you can before filling out the FAFSA. Pay all your bills that you can before you apply as well.