When you apply early decision to a college, you are also committing to the financial aid package that they offer you. But what if it's not the one you need?
When you apply early decision to your dream school, you are committing to attending that school if you are accepted. If you have your heart set on one school, that probably sounds like a dream: to be admitted to the college of your choice before your first semester senior year is over.
Unfortunately, the FAFSA isn't available until January 1st. After filling out and submitting your FAFSA, your school will then send you information about your financial aid package. But if it's not enough, your options are likely to be limited. You might be able to withdraw your acceptance from your early decision school without making waves, but it may be too late to try and get into another school with a better financial aid offer before the fall semester begins.
If you know you need, and will qualify for, financial aid, it may be worth waiting to apply to your top choice schools during the regular admission period. By that time, your FAFSA will be complete, and you will be able to compare different aid packages from the schools where you are accepted. Of course, if a school offers a non-binding early action option, you can — and should — apply earlier.