New Year’s is the best day to apply for financial aid

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Hoping to relax on New Year’s Day? Well if you or a family member is headed to college in 2015, that’s too bad.

January 1 is the first day students can submit the nationwide financial aid application (known as FAFSA) for the upcoming school year. Applying early is hands down the best way to maximize the amount of money a student gets to put toward college.

Here are five things you need to know about the process.

1. It’s a single application for three different kinds of aid.

This form is super important because it determines the amount of aid a student will get from the three main sources available: the federal government, state governments and schools. Funding can include loans as well as money that students don’t have to pay back, like scholarships, grants and work-study gigs.

2. The sooner you file, the more money you can get.

Some states and colleges have a finite amount of money to dole out and it’s allocated on a first-come, first-serve basis each year, according to Sallie Mae spokeswoman Martha Holler. So it’s always best to be at the front of the line.

Don’t wait for your W-2 to come in or to get your tax returns. The application can always be updated later with exact numbers, Holler said.

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