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Applying for college aid early

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A big change is happening for students going to college. FAFSA — the Free Application for Federal Student Aid—moved up the date you can apply to October 1 st . That’s three months earlier than before and Consumer Reports says it is important to get your application in as soon as possible.

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Here’s how it works: Submit the FAFSA form. You’ll get a Student Aid Report that tells you what federal aid you qualify for, like Pell grants or work-study. Then enter that information into the net price calculator on any college’s website or on CollegeAbacus.org to get a good idea of what a college will cost you before you apply.

It’s important to apply for FAFSA as soon possible. Many state, college and scholarship programs need your FAFSA to determine how much aid you’re going to get and often it’s on a first come first serve basis.

Be aware that if you’re heading to college in 2017, your aid package will be based on your family’s 2015 taxes. You can use the IRS data-retrieval tool on the FAFSA form to directly import your tax information.

Don’t worry if you don’t know all the schools you want to apply to. Consumer Reports recommends you list all of the colleges you are considering to hold your place in line for financial aid. You can always add more schools later on. And remember that you must reapply for FAFSA every year. So the new application date also means getting earlier notice if your aid package changes.

Consumer Reports also advises you to be very mindful when filling out the forms. Missed signatures, or incorrect information can slow down the process and cost you thousands of dollars in aid.

Consumer Reports

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