Some financial aid is available on a first-come, first serve basis.
To create their best opportunity for scholarships and grants, I recommend to every family that they submit applications for financial aid as soon as the applications become available. The first step is to become acquainted with the forms, information required, and deadlines. The financial aid application process can be daunting, and a good video can be a good starting point.
Every college requires the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This application primarily requires information on family income. The FAFSA application will be available on January 1. Before then, families should explore this required application. "The 5-Minute FAFSA Video" is helpful, and amusing.
Between 250 and 300 private colleges also require the CSS Profile. The CSS Profile became available on October 1. This application requires information on family income and assets, and is more complicated than the FAFSA. "Webinar: Completing the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE--What You Need to Know" is helpful.
Photo: "Tiger Stadium, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Wide View 2" courtesy Billy Metcalf Photography, 2012, FlickrCC