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Earlier FAFSA Submission Date Offers Students Better Chance At Aid

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- There is an enormous change in the college aid application process and it is happening in just days.

It's a change that could save your student and your family thousands of dollars a year.

Here is the change: For the first time ever you can fill out the universal financial aid Free Application for Federal Student Aid form starting on Oct. 1. In the past the start date has always been Jan. 1.

And that matters because of a little-known fact -- a large portion of federal financial aid is awarded on a first come, first serve basis.

An estimated 70 percent of college students get some kind of federal financial aid, and to get it students and their families have to fill out a FAFSA application. Olivia Johnson is a student at the U of M. She told us federal financial aid is a huge help to her family.

"I have two sisters so my parents just finished paying for one of them to go to college and now there is another one going to school so it's a lot of money," Johnson said.

And like a lot of students, Johnson did not know about the FAFSA change.

"I didn't know," she said.

Chris Wills, the president of College Inside Track, says Johnson is far from alone.

"There is a little known component of financial that is essentially first come, first serve," he said.

Wills says those who complete the FAFSA earliest in many cases get more money.

"It's a finite amount of money once it's gone its gone," Wills said.

"If you fill out the FAFSA on October 1st and you qualify for that then you will surely get it but if you don't know about that and you wait until the spring even if you qualify for it you may not get that."

Wills says another little-known fact is that  regardless of income everyone should fill out the FAFSA.

"It's a myth you can make too much money and not qualify for some kind of financial aid," he said.

Wills says some schools offer aid just for filling out the FAFSA form.

"So even if you make a million dollars a year just by completing the FAFSA you could get free money at that school," he said.

And free money -- any money -- for debt-ridden families and students is welcome.

"Didn't know that, it would be good to get more aid," Johnson said.

And the financial aid process is not just incoming freshmen. Students have to fill out a FAFSA application every year.

You can start filling out a FAFSA application for next year on Oct. 1.

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