Changes to the federal student aid application mean the clock starts ticking earlier.
For weeks Hayfield Secondary School senior Mikayla Dukes and her mother, Bea, have been mapping a plan for what colleges she will apply to and how they will pay for it.
“When thinking about having to pay for college, it gets a little bit overwhelming,” she said.
“I was thinking, ‘OK, do I start now with second-, third- or fourth-time job?’” Bea Dukes said.
Every parent and student should fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
For the 2017-18 school year, FAFSA can be filed as early as this Oct. 1. For years parents had to wait until Jan. 1.
Another major change to FAFSA is parents and students will be required to report income information from their 2015 tax year.
Although the filing deadline is June 2018, don't procrastinate.
“Most schools have what's called a priority filing deadline,” College Access Fairfax Chairman Tessie Wilson. “That's the date that those schools say, First come, first served.”
So depending on your school, if your FAFSA is filed by the priority filing deadline, then you're going to have first dibs on any money that might be available.
And don't be intimidated by the FAFSA application.
“It’s a daunting form, and people get very, very nervous about doing it or get part way through it and say I can't do this and they give up, not realizing that there's help,” Wilson said.
“My husband and I are devoted and committed to ensure that we’re equipped with the right material, the right information, to help navigate this process,” Bea Dukes said.