To tap into that aid, students must first file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, which serves as the gateway to all federal money including loans, work-study and grants.
For the 2019-2020 school year, the FAFSA filing season opened October 1 — and the sooner students file, the better.
Some financial aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, or from programs with limited funds. The earlier families fill out the FAFSA, the better the chance to be in line for that aid, according to Ashley Boucher, a spokeswoman for Sallie Mae.
“If families can get organized now, then they should absolutely try to apply as close to October 1 as possible,” she said.
“Get the financial aid done, then turn your attention to the applications,” added Joe DePaulo, CEO and co-founder of College Ave Student Loans, a provider of private student loans. “By April, you’ve set up some options for yourself.”
To make it even easier to file, the FAFSA is also available on a new phone app, called myStudentAid, for the first time this year.
“The reasons to not complete it are getting less and less,” Boucher said.