The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) opens on Oct. 1 every year. Although the federal deadline gives you until June of the following year to submit, states and schools set much earlier deadlines. Instead of waiting until a FAFSA deadline approaches, it’s a better idea to submit this important form as close to Oct. 1 as possible.
If you apply early, not only will you meet all the various FAFSA deadlines, but you might also get more financial aid for college. Here are the details you should know about…
When is the FAFSA due? 3 dates to know
Since some financial aid is doled out on a first-come, first-served basis, it’s a good idea to submit the FAFSA as soon as you can. This application becomes available on Oct. 1 every year. So if you’re an incoming college freshman, you could submit the FAFSA starting on Oct. 1 of your senior year in high school.
However, the FAFSA isn’t technically due then. If you need to wait, keep in mind these three FAFSA deadlines:
1. The federal FAFSA deadline
2. Your college’s FAFSA deadline
3. Your state’s FAFSA deadline
1. The federal FAFSA deadline
|School year||FAFSA start date||Federal FAFSA deadline|
|2021-22||Oct. 1, 2020||June 30, 2022|
|2022-23||Oct. 1, 2021||June 30, 2023|
Since the Department of Education offers the FAFSA funding, it also sets a deadline for the application. But this deadline is a long one — you’ll have access to the FAFSA for over a year and a half.
The FAFSA for the 2022-23 school year, for instance, became available on Oct. 1, 2021. It remains open until June 30, 2023. Plus, you can make corrections or updates until Sept. 10, 2023.
Most students file the FAFSA much closer to the date it opens than the date it closes. The main reason to file the FAFSA later in the school year would be if you had a major change in your financial circumstances.
“Students can file the FAFSA until the end of the academic year and still get some aid,” says Mark Kantrowitz, financial aid expert and publisher of SavingforCollege.com. “This most often happens when a wealthy student has a change in family financial circumstances (e.g., death of a parent) that significantly affects their ability to pay for college.”
Unless you have a major change in your financial circumstances, you probably don’t need to worry about the federal FAFSA deadline since you’ll be submitting the FAFSA months ahead of it. But you do need to consider state and college FAFSA deadlines, both of which come up a lot sooner.
2. Your college’s FAFSA deadline
Colleges rely on the FAFSA to award financial aid. If you get into a school, you’ll likely see your financial aid package at the same time as your acceptance letter. So for many colleges, you’ll need to submit the FAFSA in time for them to review your application and calculate your financial aid.
Each college sets its own deadline for the FAFSA. Note that a few schools also require the CSS Profile , another document that assesses your financial need. Head to the financial aid website of each college on your list to find its FAFSA deadlines.
Tufts University, for example, sets an early-decision FAFSA due date of Nov. 22, the same date its early-decision applications are due. If you’re applying by Tufts’ regular decision deadline of Feb. 1, you’ll also need to submit your FAFSA by Feb. 1.
At Tufts, as with some other colleges, your FAFSA deadline falls on the same day as or close to your college application deadline. However, you still might want to file the FAFSA months earlier to qualify for as much financial aid as possible from your state.
3. Your state’s FAFSA deadline
Finally, each state might also set its own FAFSA deadline for incoming college students. States have financial aid programs, especially for residents attending in-state public colleges, as well. Connecticut’s FAFSA deadline for the 2021-22 school year, for example, was Feb. 15, 2021, at least for priority consideration.
To qualify for state financial aid, you need to file the FAFSA before the state deadline. In fact, the earlier you can submit your financial aid application, the better, since some aid is given out on a first-come, first-served basis.
“Students should file the FAFSA as soon as possible on or after Oct. 1,” says Kantrowitz. “Students who file the FAFSA within the first three months (October, November and December) tend to receive more than twice as much grant funding, on average, as students who file the FAFSA later.”
Some states, like Illinois, Kentucky and Oklahoma, simply urge students to get the FAFSA in as soon as possible after Oct. 1. These states say awards are distributed until state financial aid funds are depleted.
Even though filling out the FAFSA can be time consuming, getting it done early is well worth the effort.
Find your state’s FAFSA deadline: The Department of Education maintains a list of every state’s FAFSA deadline. You can find the deadline for your state here.
File your FAFSA close to Oct. 1
Instead of asking, “When is the FAFSA due?” a better question would be, “When does the FAFSA become available?” It opens on Oct. 1 every year, so you should simply plan on submitting your application then.
Instead of waiting until your school, state or federal FAFSA deadline, try to file the FAFSA ASAP. You might start preparing your information in September so you can submit the application right after it opens in October.
Then, you won’t have to worry about all these FAFSA deadlines. Instead, you can focus your attention on applying for scholarships.
|Don’t forget your CSS Profile|
|Many colleges additionally require a form called the CSS Profile to distribute financial aid. Your college should state the CSS Profile deadline on the financial aid section of its website, but check with the financial aid office if you have questions about filling out the CSS Profile or when it is due.|
Upcoming changes to the FAFSA
The FAFSA for the 2023-24 school year will look a little different than it did in previous years, thanks to the recent Consolidated Appropriations Act. Here are some changes to keep in mind, which will appear on the FAFSA that opens on Oct. 1, 2022.
1. The FAFSA will ask fewer questions
In an effort to simplify the FAFSA and make it more accessible for students and their families, lawmakers are reducing the number of questions it asks. Instead of 108 questions, this form may ask just 36.
What’s more, families might not have to use the IRS Data Retrieval tool to transfer their financial information. Instead, this data will be directly imported into the FAFSA from their tax return, whenever possible.
2. The Expected Family Contribution will get a new name
Expected Family Contribution (EFC) has long been a confusing term, so it’s getting a new name soon — the Student Aid Index (SAI). Rather than an indication of how much your family is expected to pay for college, the SAI indicates your financial need.
Moving forward, it will also be possible for a student’s Student Aid Index to be negative, a change that will help schools determine which students have the greatest financial need.
3. More students might be eligible for a Pell Grant (and amounts may increase)
The Pell Grant is a federal grant offered to students with the highest demonstrated financial need. Under the new Consolidated Appropriations Act, Pell Grant eligibility will expand to an estimated 1.7 million more students.
What’s more, the amount of the grant may increase. In 2020-21, for example, the Pell Grant maximum was $6,345, while the amount increased to $6,495 in 2021-22. It will likely increase again for the following school year.
4. Schools might take unemployment into account during a national emergency
Since so many people lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the new act is making it easier for schools to consider unemployment when calculating a student’s financial aid eligibility. Specifically, institutions can reevaluate a student’s eligibility for aid based on any unemployment benefits their family received during the national emergency.
If you think you might be eligible for more aid, reach out to your school’s financial aid office to discuss your situation.
Here are answers to a few frequently asked questions about the FAFSA. For more information, head to our comprehensive FAFSA FAQ.
When does the FAFSA become available?
The FAFSA becomes available on Oct. 1 each year.
When should you apply for the FAFSA?
Since some financial aid is doled out on a first-come, first-served basis, it’s a good idea to submit the FAFSA as close to the date it opens (Oct. 1) as possible. Applying early may help you get the most financial aid for college.
Should you submit the FAFSA before applying to college?
Many students submit the FAFSA before they’ve sent off their college applications. If you’re a senior in high school, for example, you might submit the FAFSA in October but submit your college applications in January or later. You can submit the FAFSA to the colleges you’re planning to apply to, but you can also add colleges later if you change your mind.
As mentioned, some colleges set their FAFSA deadlines on the same day as their application deadlines. So if you haven’t already submitted your FAFSA, you will likely want to do so by the time your college application deadline rolls around.
Can you make changes to the FAFSA?
Yes, it is possible to make changes to the FAFSA. In fact, you’re expected to update your FAFSA information if certain family circumstances have changed, such as the number of family members in your household. To update your information or correct an error, you can sign into your FAFSA with your FSA ID, click on “Make FAFSA Corrections” and resubmit the form.
Tracking deadlines and other next steps
When you’re applying for college, there are a lot of moving parts. Here are some next steps to keep in mind so you can stay organized and on track.
Write down your deadlines: Not only do you have to keep up with application deadlines, but you also have to think about when the FAFSA (and in some cases, the CSS Profile) is due. Look up the deadlines for all the schools you’re applying to and write them down in one place — like a notebook, spreadsheet or calendar.
Research whether you need to submit additional forms. Some schools also require the CSS Profile, for example. Look up the requirements for every school on your list to make sure you’re not missing out on any financial aid.
Apply for scholarships. Don’t wait to get your financial aid award before applying for scholarships. You can apply for scholarships throughout the college application process, as well as after you’ve already enrolled in college. Scholarships can help ease the financial burden, though it could be worth exploring whether your college practices scholarship displacement.
Compare your financial aid awards. Once you get your acceptance letters and financial aid packages, you can compare them to see which school would be the best fit for your budget. If your financial aid offer falls short, you might be able to appeal for more aid.
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