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Getting into college is a big milestone, but do you have a plan to pay for it?

USA TODAY

Some college students are just trying to navigate a socially distant trip home for Thanksgiving. Other students feel stuck at the midpoint of their college or high school semesters, weighed down by staring at a computer screen for 10 hours a day. 

While next school year might seem far off, it’s time to start thinking about paying for it. And experts say not enough families are filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, which launched Oct. 1.

Filing rates have been steadily declining for years. Especially this year, with uncertainties mounting from the pandemic, experts are urging students to fill out their application as soon as possible. 

Here’s what to know about the financial aid application.

What is a FAFSA, and why is the application so