Applications have opened three months earlier than previous years for students to be considered for state and federal financial aid, known as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

The application process, which can be found at https://fafsa.ed.gov/, opened Oct. 1 for the 2017-18 school year. FAFSA applications in Florida are due May 15; however, University of Central Florida students can apply by Dec. 1, the university’s priority deadline, to better their chances at receiving aid.

The Oct. 1 opening reflects a change made to the FAFSA process. Previously, the application opened Jan. 1 of each year, but the U.S. Department of Education decided to open the process earlier. This give students more time to apply and it aligns the FAFSA application with college and university admission applications that typically are due in the fall.

Another change to the FAFSA application affects the income information that determines a student’s financial-aid need. Students or parents, if applicable, must submit tax-return information from two years earlier than the school year  application. For example, if applying for the 2017-18 school year, 2015 tax and income information must be used. This eliminates the need to estimate information from the immediate year prior, which historically has been required, as tax returns often are not completed until months after FAFSA applications open.

Here are other tips to consider when applying for FAFSA:

  • Obtain a FAFSA ID as soon as possible at https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa/filling-out/fsaid. A FAFSA ID serves as your electronic signature.
  • Complete the 2017-18 FAFSA application by Dec. 1 to meet the priority deadline and to allow time to make changes, if needed.
  • Use the U.S. Internal Revenue Service’s Data Retrieval Tool that electronically transfers federal tax return information to your FAFSA application. This ensures the accuracy of the tax information being submitted.
  • For more information, and applicants can visit www.finaid.ucf.edu/FAFSA.