The Financial Aid Offices run rather in a very strange manner.
The universities will not tell you that you did not get the financial aid just because you did not apply as soon as the other students. This is why the first most important thing is to prioritize the deadline of submission of your financial aid forms. The deadline may be different for many universities, and your best shot at getting the financial support is if you apply early for the process.
The next thing to keep in mind is to be as accurate and as focused while you're filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form as you can be. If you have made any errors, there is huge chance that your application will be returned which could cost you a heavy delay. Many students often make a mistake of putting their allowance and tax information in the parents section – make sure you know what you are doing.
Sometimes the parents who are not well off insist that their children also exclude expensive universities from their list of options. On the contrary, the expensive schools may be more affordable than an average school. The reason is when you apply to a school whose tuition fee is less there are very slim chances that you will not get any financial aid and force you to end up paying the entire tuition fee on your own if the tuition is low enough.
As for the universities that are more pricey and famous you can get up to a 100% tuition subsidy in many cases, especially if you maintain good standing at the school. So rather than just give up on what you could have you should at least take a chance as you never know if you could successfully land at any top school and study for free.
Applying for an early decision of acceptance into a university is not the wisest way of getting the financial aid, though, as your chances of getting it are very low to none. Students usually apply for early decision at the top schools way ahead of time on the condition that if they get accepted they will attend that school. Also you can only apply to one university for an early decision. This shows your determination to get into that school which makes the council think that you are willing to pay anything to get an admission. However, if you need financial aid it would be better if you apply on a regular basis as along with other students, especially if you have a good SAT score and a strong academic background and extracurricular activities to back up your application. Applying for government grants can also help you if you're in a bind, particularly if you have a strong background to begin with.
Trying to trick the financial aid committee is not a very good idea either. These people are clever and good at what they do, so if you're thinking of trying to manipulate your forms to try to portray yourself as more describing than you are think again.