It may seem early, but financial experts say it is never too soon to start thinking about financial aid.
The U.S. Department of Education recently released a simplified, easy-to-use resource at studentaid.ed.gov that is a consolidation of around 30 websites and resources with different information regarding financial aid. Everything from forms, to who can qualify to finding the right college for you or your child is available.
And it doesn't stop there. Financial aid information is keeping up with technology, and is now available across several social media platforms.
"Students, and parents, even, today live in an information-now society and they really want information as quickly as they can get it," said Chris Bowser, Director of Financial Assistance at Indian Hills Community College. "The U.S. Department of Education has created a platform across many different social media - so Twitter, Facebook, YouTube - and they give students and parents the opportunity to connect to that information about how to apply for financial aid, how to select the college that's right for them, things like that and once again, when they go into repayment on their student loans, how to make sure they're making the right choices and decisions on repayment."
The website includes checklists for every grade level, beginning at elementary school.
As for current high school seniors looking to attend college in the fall of 2013, Bowser said they should be well into the application process. Each college has a different deadline for FAFSA and other financial aid forms, so students should check with each school they apply to for important dates and deadlines. Indian Hills has no deadline for most applications except for state programs.
To make applying as simple a process as possible, students should have the social security number, driver's license number and date of birth, 2012 tax forms, W-2 forms and current bank statements. A personal identification number, or PIN, is recommended, but not required.
Parents should also have all of the same paperwork. To create a PIN, visit www.pin.ed.gov.