For years, families would sit by the computer on New Year’s Eve waiting for that big moment: to be among the first to fill out the FAFSA. Nowadays, the start date has moved up to October 1st, but what does this mean for your financial aid packages?
We can answer that...
1. FAFSA on the first. October 1st.
October 1st isn’t a deadline at all. It's actually the first date on which you can submit. Forms submitted after October 1st are still processed. What date you file on--prior to the deadline, of course--has no bearing on qualification for federal student loans or federal grants. How early you file only matters for other financial aid and scholarships with priority deadlines.
2. Individual schools and states may have their own priority deadlines.
By no means should you look at the FAFSA as the only path to student loans and other federal financial aid. Do pay attention to both state and school deadlines for scholarships, grants, and loans. You can find state deadlines on your state’s Department of Education website; individual school deadlines are posted on the college’s financial aid site. Through this research, you’ll know all final deadlines, but do remember there are first-come, first-serve grants for those who qualify. File your FAFSA as soon as you can.
3. Tax year information has changed.
Having up-to-date tax information can be complicated when filing your FAFSA on January 1st. After all, you haven’t filed your tax return yet. With the October date, the Department of Education changed the tax return information needed to the previous year. So the 2017-2018 school application, which can be filled out as early as October 1, 2016, will require information from the 2015 tax return.
4. The final date to submit the FAFSA has not changed.
This is a really important fact. Why? Let’s say you've saved enough for your kids to attend fall or even fall and spring semesters without student loans. However, you didn’t save enough for the summer classes your child now wants to attend. The FAFSA can be filled out for the 2017-2018 school year all the way up to June 30, 2018.
5. The deadlines for the Renewal FAFSAs are the same.
Following your first FAFSA application, future years' FAFSAs are called Renewal FAFSAs. The priority and final deadlines are the same as if you’re filling out the FAFSA for the first time. You could miss out getting continued financial aid if you don’t fill out this form early.
Bonus: your child may be in a better position for scholarships after the first year. Why? Grades may be better in college than they were in high school. Each year, always look for new scholarships from your state Department of Education website, as well as the University financial aid office.