SAN FRANCSICO (KGO) --Jeralyn Escamilla is a high school senior with big dreams. But she'll need loans to pay for college.
"I want to pursue a career in medicine and those careers tend to be a little bit more than expensive," she said.
Being able to apply for financial aid earlier will help Jeralyn and her family make more informed decisions about college affordability.
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High school seniors thinking about going to college next year need to act fast when it comes to applying for financial aid.
FAFSA is the free application for federal student aid. The date to apply moved to October first - three months earlier than before.
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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.
It's important to apply for FAFSA as soon after the October first launch as possible.
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"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," explained Donna Rosato, Money Editor at Consumer Reports.
Be aware 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.
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"Don't worry if you don't know all the schools you want to apply to. List all the colleges you are considering to hold your place in line for financial aid. You can always add more schools later on," said Rosato.
You must reapply for FAFSA year. So, the new application date also means getting earlier notice if your aid package changes.
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Consumer Reports is published by Consumers Union. Both Consumer Reports and Consumers Union are not-for-profit organizations that accept no advertising. Neither has any commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site.
(All Consumer Reports Material Copyright 2014. Consumers Union of U.S. Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)