For the 2016–17 year, you can apply between Jan. 1, 2016, and June 30, 2017. (For the 2017–18 year, you will be able to apply between Oct. 1, 2016, and June 30, 2018.) However, there are a few federal student aid programs that have limited funds, so be sure to apply as soon as you can once the FAFSA is available for the year you’ll be attending school.
Check the school’s website or contact its financial aid office. School deadlines are usually early in the year (often in February or March).
Other financial aid
Some programs other than government or school aid require that you file the FAFSA. For instance, you can’t get certain private scholarships unless you’re eligible for a Federal Pell Grant—and you can’t find out whether you’re eligible for a Pell Grant unless you file a FAFSA. If the private scholarship’s application deadline is in early to mid-January, you’ll need to submit your FAFSA before that deadline.
As you can see, it’s a good idea to file the FAFSA as soon as it’s available so you don’t miss out on anything.