With the flagging economy potentially putting a strain on studentsability to pay for college, the West Virginia University Financial Aid Office reminds parents and students to file their Free Application for Federal Student Aid as soon as possible.

Do it now. Dont wait until the March 1 deadline,said Eric Meadows, WVU financial aid counselor.Most students will file the FAFSA electronically, but some will want to mail the paper FAFSA . In either instance, students should not wait until the last day to submit the form. We encourage students to file by mid-February to ensure that it is received on time.

Students and parents interested in learning more about student assistance programs are encouraged to bring their questions to WVU s annual Financial Aid Awareness Week Monday, Feb. 9, through Friday, Feb. 13.

Financial aid experts will be available each day from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. in the Mountainlair Commons to provide information about the numerous options available to students and how to manage personal finances and budgeting.

Students are also invited to stop by the WVU Financial Aid Office on the second floor of the Mountainlair and visit the offices Web site ( http://www.finaid.wvu.edu ), now featuring a link to CashCourse , a comprehensive site intended to help college students develop financial management skills.

Meadows said parents and students do not have to wait until their taxes are completed before they file their FAFSA .

They can complete it based on last years income and make corrections later on,he said.

In addition to completing the FAFSA , students are encouraged to look for outside scholarships by logging onto free Internet search sites such as http://www.fastweb.com . Students may also inquire about departmental scholarships within their individual colleges or schools, Meadows said.

The FAFSA can be filed online at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov and signed electronically with a federal PIN number that can be obtained at http://www.pin.ed.gov .

Parents who want to learn more about the FAFSA and financial aid can attend a special presentation from 10:30-11:30 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 28, in the Mountainlair (room to be announced).Building Blocks of Financial Aidis offered in conjunction with the Mountaineer Parents Club Winter Weekend .