NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Parents of college-aged children know Jan. 1 isn't just the first date of the new year -- as the "shotgun start" to the college financial aid process, it's much more important than that.
That's the day the all-important Free Application for Federal Student Aid form can be sent out.
In many ways, the hunt for college financial aid money is as competitive as the search for a good school. College financial aid is limited, and if you're too late to the table there's a good chance you'll miss out for your college-aged son or daughter.
That's a big miss for parents, given the average tuition for a four-year private school is about $30,000 annually and a four-year state school (for an in-state student) is almost $10,000 per year.FAFSA form as soon as you can in January. As the company points out, the form takes only about 90 minutes to complete and can add thousands to your college fund. Cappex.com is a good place to start. Don't hesitate to negotiate. Don't assume a college's first financial aid offer is its only offer. True, FAFSA offers are non-negotiable, but colleges are open to hearing your case for more financial aid. Kaplan advises going back to the school and explain why your son or daughter is a "must-have" student, or explain why your financial circumstances may have changed (i.e., like a lost job or a divorce). Unlike saving for retirement, finding college financial aid money has a shorter track. So lace up those running shoes and get going -- this is one race you don't want to lose.