The sooner you fill out the FAFSA, the better. The application is free, and it's not just a way to determine how much federal student aid you'll receive. State governments, and some colleges and universities use information from the FAFSA to determine what state and institutional aid you qualify for. But state agencies and individual schools also have different deadlines to qualify for aid -- so keep track of all of the deadlines, and get a head start. Even if your household income is too high for you to qualify for federal grants or work-study funds, the FAFSA is also used to determine federal student loan eligibility. There's no harm in applying, and on average, it only takes 23 minutes to fill out the FAFSA.