If you’re planning on attending college next fall, be on the alert: the time to file your Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, is as close to October 1, 2018 as possible.
While technically you can complete your FAFSA anytime through summer of 2020, in the financial aid world, the early bird gets the worm. There are three due dates you’ll need to keep an eye on:
- The federal due date
- Your school’s due date, and
- The state’s due date.
FAFSA deadlines to keep in mind
When you’re in college application mode, it can be easy to put financial aid at the end of the list. But don’t devote all your time to crafting essays and gathering records.
Making sure you’re registered for aid as early in the year as possible means you’ll increase the odds of getting that aid, especially scholarships.
That's because a lot of financial aid is given out on a first-come, first-served basis.
FAFSA registration opens October 1st
For the 2019-2020 school year, students can complete their FAFSA on the federal Department of Education website as early as October 1, 2018.
But don’t wait until October 1st to gather all your materials. Make sure you have social security information and income information, bank accounts, and other investment-account info ready to go.
The window to complete the FAFSA doesn't close until June 30, 2020. That means you can still fill it out until later in the semester or even during the school year.
Even if you aren't eligible for need and academic-based grants, you'll need to complete the FAFSA if you want to take out federal student loans or take a work-study position.
School-specific deadlines vary by college
When it comes to meeting your school's deadline, you'll need to check with your school first. If you're a high school senior, you'll want to check with all the schools you are applying to.
In general, like the federal deadline, you can usually fill the actual form out any time you are seeking financial-aid assistance.
But a lot of schools also provide a priority deadline that you'll want to be aware of. Students need to have their FAFSA completed and received by the school by this date in order to be eligible for the most amount of aid.
Individual states also often give out grants and scholarships to any students attending state-approved schools. Sometimes there is a single priority due date; other times individual awards have their own deadlines.
For example, some states have multiple need-based scholarships that may be due at different times. Applying early helps ensure that you don't miss out on all the aid that might be available to you.
Plan in advance
When it comes to your college picture, it's important to be organized and informed about the process. Doing a little leg work in advance, putting important dates in your calenda,r and prepping the paperwork ahead of time will go a long way to not only making sure you get help, but also increase your chances of getting certain types of aid.
Need help filling out the FAFSA? Check out our question-by-question FAFSA Guide.