Kathryn Lindsay
September 15, 2015 11:20 am

One of the biggest questions when it comes to college season is this: Can I afford it? Looking at schools can be so touch and go, especially when you’re not sure how much money you’ll be getting in financial aid. That’s why this new government change will make applying for financial aid happen much earlier — three months earlier, in fact.

What does this mean? Well, usually, the financial aid process begins in January of the year you’re planning to start school. This new initiative will allow prospective students to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid as early as October of the previous year. This is the form that determines if students are eligible for federally supported student loans and Pell Grants. Knowing this information earlier will allow students to make much more educated decisions when it comes to deciding where to go to school.

It also means they can submit an earlier tax return when applying for aid. This is good for students who maybe took a year off to work. Colleges will look at your financial situation at the end of your senior year, and not after the year you spent working to save up mad money for school.

The deputy director of the White House’s Domestic Policy Council, James Kvaal, hopes this new system will allow more students the chance to go to school, especially students who, before, had assumed that they couldn’t afford it. “If we are not even reaching students who are currently enrolled in college,” he explained. “We wonder how many more students would be in college if they knew this aid was available.”

And how does this affect schools? “We anticipate there may be a little more work for colleges to do to adjust financial aid packages,” he continued. “But overall, we believe that the earlier tax data is a sound basis for awarding federal student aid.”

So get applying!

(Image via Shutterstock.)

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