PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - If you have a college bound child the beginning of the year is important when it comes to getting financial aid for the fall.

The earlier you fill out the FAFSA or Free Application for Student Aid form the more money you and your child could be eligible for.

Jess Whittier a College Access Counselor with the Finance Authority of Maine had some advice for parents.

The US Department of Education began taking FAFSA applications on Jan. 1st and the earlier the aid form is completed the more potential access to financing.

The FAFSA is truly the gateway to financial aid. Unfortunately, 50% of high school students don't complete the FAFSA form and miss out on thousands of dollars for college.

To help Maine families, the Finance Authority of Maine has created the following support program:

In-Person Help Sessions: The statewide series of 28 FAFSA in-person help sessions begin on January 18th in Skowhegan and end on February 6th in Houlton and will be free and open to the public.

Online Support: If families can't attend an in-person help session, they can visit FAME's FASFA Online Help. There, they can download a checklist of the information they will need to complete the FAFSA form and watch a video with tips on how to fill it out.

Scholarship Opportunity: Additionally, FAME is offering three (3) $1,000 scholarships for participants that complete the FAFSA either at the in-person help sessions or using FAME's online help. Winners will be randomly selected at the beginning of May 2014.

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