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MIAMI (CBSMiami) — College students can now get an earlier start than usual when applying for financial aid.

Registration for FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, opened up October 1st, a full three months ahead of the standard January 1st date.

The program operates on a first-come-first-serve basis and offers up to $150 billion in federal grants, loans, and work-study funds each year to more than 13 million eligible students paying for college or career school.

Here are some tips to help ensure better success.

  • File as Soon as Possible: Money made available to students is finite, so the longer you wait to file, the farther down the line you go where fewer financial aid packages are available.
  • Triple-Check Your Info: Filling out applications incorrectly can delay your submission and affect the amount of money you can get. Take your time and make sure your information is accurate and nothing is left blank.
  • Add a Personal Touch: Submitting an extra letter along with your application can help explain any unique situations, like medical emergencies or job issues, and get you more aid.
  • Don’t Be Afraid to Appeal: Don’t like the package you were approved for? Fight it. Experts suggest talking to the financial aid office if there have been changes to your money situation or if another school offered you a differing amount. Sometimes there is wiggle room on the table.
  • File on Faith: Not every student is eligible for financial aid as your current income level is taken into account. But even if you don’t think you’re eligible, file anyway. Afterall, it’s free. It can often be much harder for students to get help later than those who apply for aid when first entering college.