Know Your FAFSA Deadlines

Do Not Miss Out On Financial Aid by Missing a Deadline

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People outside the college world simply do not understand what all the fuss is about surrounding the yearly FAFSA frenzy. This is truer than ever in 2016. Those parents of high school seniors and college freshmen, however, understand all too well the importance of completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid in an accurate and timely manner.

The biggest change this year is that the initial date that the FAFSA will be available has been moved up from January to October.

What that means to you is that students and their families can start applying for financial aid for the 2017-2018 school year as early as October 1. While many elements of the financial aid world are still figuring out what this means, and how they’ll deal with it, they all agree that it is still worthwhile to file the FAFSA as soon as possible.

The FAFSA is the crucial first step in qualifying for your share of federal, state and institutional aid, but some of these programs only have limited funds available. Once the money runs out, you may not receive that specific type of aid, even if you would otherwise be eligible. That could severely impact your ability to afford attending the college of your dreams. Here are a few other factors you must keep in mind when filing the FAFSA:

  • Many Colleges Have Early Financial Aid Deadlines: Most colleges offer their own types of financial aid, such as grants and scholarships, or they participate in the federal work-study and Pell Grant programs. Although you may technically have a longer time to complete the FAFSA application, some colleges have surprisingly earlier deadlines. The school’s priority financial aid deadline is the date by which the FAFSA should be completed so that your student will have the best possible chance of receiving both federal and institutional financial aid. Don’t be shocked to find out that some of these deadlines fall very early in the application process, or that colleges have moved up their filing deadlines in light of the FAFSA changes.
  • Know Your State’s Financial Aid Deadline: In addition to federal financial aid, students might qualify for assistance from their state of residence if they decide to attend college in-state. It is also important to know what these deadlines are, so your student doesn’t miss out on qualifying for the maximum amount of financial aid possible.  To find your state’s deadline, visit the Federal Student Aid website, enter your state of legal residence, and check the year for which you are applying to receive financial aid.
  • Be Sure to Allow for Processing Time: Depending on whether you use the electronic or paper version, and the volume they are processing, it can take anywhere from one to four weeks to process your FAFSA and send the results to your selected schools. Keep this in mind when checking deadlines, so that you allow for plenty of processing time. Also be sure to avoid these common FAFSA mistakes, so as not to further delay your application.
  • You Don’t Have to Wait Until Your Taxes Are Filed: With previous FAFSAs, many families struggled with the overlap between filing federal income tax returns and supplying financial information. That will be easier now due to a revision called the Prior-Prior-Year, or PPY. Beginning with the FAFSA that will be available on October 1, 2016, filers will utilize information from a tax year for which the forms are more likely to have been submitted. On the 2017-2018 FAFSA, you will be able to submit information from the 2015 tax year. Since the majority of tax returns are likely to be filed by October, this should enable you to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to complete your application.

Applying for college can be a complex and time-consuming process, but don’t let all your hard work go to waste by missing an important deadline.

Be aware of federal, state and institutional deadlines, take your time to get it right, allow for processing time, and you should be able to overcome this potential roadblock on the road to your college education.