(WVEC) -- College students and parents can begin to file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FASFA, starting on October 1.
The office of Federal Student Aid provides grants, loans, and work-study funds for college or career schools.
They provide more than $120 billion to support over 13 million students.
It’s advantageous to file it as soon as possible because some funding is distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis. New federal rules also change which year’s tax information to use in the application.
The 2018–19 FAFSA launches October 1! Here's what you should know. pic.twitter.com/3gZTwfHlUo— Federal Student Aid (@FAFSA) September 13, 2017
A few things to know:
SO SOON? Yes. The FAFSA filing period used to open on Jan. 1 but for the second year it is now Oct. 1. You still have until June 30th to complete the form but again, filing early means a better shot at assistance.
Mark Kantrowitz, of the college information website Cappex.com, said that students who file the FAFSA during the first three months tend to get more than double the grants, on average, of students who file the FAFSA later.
WHAT ELSE? Students and their families will also be required to report income from an earlier tax year, which is intended to make the process easier.
When the FAFSA application period opened on Jan. 1, many families rushed to apply but didn’t have all the necessary tax information and had to estimate it. Now applicants will use tax returns from one year earlier. So those applying for aid for the 2018-2019 school year will use their 2016 income information instead of 2017.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? Families will be able to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to transfer information from their federal income tax returns into the FAFSA. This will not only simplify the form, but also reduce the likelihood that the FAFSA will be selected for verification, Kantrowitz said. Any data that comes unmodified from the IRS to the FAFSA will not be subject to verification. Skipping verification will save families and colleges time and hassle, he said.
He also notes that if 2017 income is lower than 2016, the family should appeal to the college financial aid administrator for a professional judgment review.
Completing the FAFSA earlier means families can receive critical information like the Student Aid Report (SAR) sooner, says lender Sallie Mae. The SAR includes the Estimated Family Contribution, or EFC, which provides a clearer picture about eligibility for financial aid as families make decisions about colleges.
For more information, or to apply click HERE.
Associated Press contributed to this report.