Q:

I understand that the all-important college Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form can now be submitted starting Oct. 1 of this year rather than in January, as it has been in the past. Is it still important to complete this application early? -- College Bound

A:

It is true that the new FAFSA can now be submitted three months earlier. The final deadline for submission is June 30, 2017, for the school year 2017-2018. The earlier students submit this application, the better chance they have to qualify for most grant, scholarship and work-study programs, because financial aid is largely given on a first-come, first-served basis. Students should submit the FAFSA as close to the Oct. 1 start date as possible.

Students should also check to see if they need to submit other financial aid applications to their states as well as the colleges to which they are applying. In addition, they need to find out when any of these applications need to be submitted. Different states and colleges will not all have the same dates for the submission of aid applications. Again, the earlier these applications are submitted, the better.

The FAFSA application as well as information about state financial aid forms can all be found at fafsa.ed.gov. This is the official FAFSA website. While on the website, students should look at the FAFSA4caster, which provides some basic information on financial aid and will give families an estimate of student eligibility for federal student aid. Individual colleges need to be consulted for financial aid forms and deadlines.