Starting in late 2016, there will be some changes to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. You’ll be able to turn the FASFA in as early as October. For the 2016-2017 school year, it will still be available in January.

While some may think, “I have to turn it in even earlier,” this is actually a good thing.

With the FAFSA not being available until January 1, students actually had less time to get it completed and turned in. Since it uses previous year tax information, students needed to use the immediately previous year’s tax records for that year’s FAFSA. However, most tax forms aren’t sent until the end of January or even until February. And the deadlines for aid in some states is as early as March.

For the 2017-2018 term, you would still use the previous year’s tax records. But, since you’re filing it in 2016, you’ll be using the 2015 taxes that have been done for months. The online form allows IRS tax information to be imported so you won’t even need to scramble for the records.

Also, most colleges have application deadlines in the fall, along with scholarship and funding deadlines. With the earlier availability, and not waiting until taxes are done, students can get their applications in earlier and have a better chance at federal, state, and school financial aid.

There will be a lot less pressure for you to get everything lined up and filled out accurately in a short period of time. It is still a very good idea to get your FAFSA filled out as early as possible, but you’ll have the time to complete it without having to estimate income or make corrections later. Take advantage of the extra time and file your FAFSA as early as you can.