Options for HS Junior Who Was Told That College Would Be Unaffordable

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I am finishing my junior year and never thought I would be able to go to college, so I never really investigated anything about it. My mother always just said "we can't afford it." But a teacher of mine told me basically how financial aid works and indicated that it's possible I could go to college for almost nothing because of my family's financial situation (my father died 10 years ago, my mother is on disability). And in looking at it, I actually have enough saved up from Social Security from my father's death to finish almost three years of state school even if I don't get financial aid. So now I'm thinking maybe I should apply and see what happens. But my understanding is that I'm pretty late to this process. How do I start with the application process knowing that I'm finishing 11th grade and I've done nothing so far? Are there some basic steps I should take to be ready to apply this fall?

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