Apply for the FAFSA as soon as possible! Starting in 2016, that will be on or after October 1 the year before you intend to enroll in college. (Historically, that has been on or after January 1 the year you plan to enroll in college.) For example, for the 2018–2019 school year, you would file the FAFSA on or after October 1, 2017, using tax information from 2016. A little confusing, I know! You'll find a breakdown of the new FAFSA dates here. Also, be advised that you will need to file the FAFSA every year, again, ASAP after October 1. And always remember, there are sometimes limited grants or loans that run out, so it is true that the early bird gets the worm.
Director of Financial Aid
University of California, Riverside
Most states have a deadline to apply for state grant aid and most colleges also have a “priority date” to complete the FAFSA. For example, the UC system has its own priority dates. Needy students who miss this deadline are likely to lose out on significant amounts of need-based grant funding.