HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- The ball may have dropped, but don't drop the ball on your student loan applications. If you plan to attend college in 2016, one of the first things you should do this year is fill out your FAFSA form.
Why today? January 1 is the first day you can submit the nationwide college financial aid form -- and experts say the sooner you do it, the better.
Students must submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid to get any financial aid awards. You could miss out on scholarships or grant money if you wait. These include federal and state grants, as well as scholarships from your state and school -- all of which you won't have to pay back.
The form also helps determine how much you can borrow from the government, which is key because federal loans are likely to come with lower interest rates.
The application is long and a little painful, but well worth it and it's free.
If you need a couple more reasons to apply right now, some states including Tennessee serve grants on a first-come-first serve basis until funds run out and there are multiple deadlines.