Start Planning for the Last January FAFSA Now

FAFSA Changes Don’t Take Effect Until 2017-18

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You may have heard that there will be some pretty big FAFSA changes next year. As part of the process to implement these changes, there will be two FAFSA application periods in 2016. October 1, 2016 is the first time the FAFSA will be online in the fall, which is more congruent with the college application timeframe. That is for the 2017-18 academic year; however, anybody who is applying for financial aid for the 2016-17 academic year will still need to complete the FAFSA which will be available beginning January 1, 2016.

This will be the last time the January FAFSA will be used, but it doesn’t change the preparation students and their parents need to complete to be ready to submit it. December is a busy time with shopping, parties, and holiday celebrations, but make sure you take care of this important business so your student does not lose eligibility for any financial aid opportunities:

  • Know Your Timeframes: The FAFSA for the 2016-17 academic year will be online beginning January 1, 2016. It is best to fill it out as soon as possible, because there are some forms of financial aid which have limited amounts available and you don’t want to miss out. Technically you do have until June 30 to complete this application for federal student aid purposes, but make absolutely sure you are aware of your state and institution financial aid deadlines. Some states have deadlines as early as March 1, 2016 which doesn't leave very much time to gather the necessary documentation and submit the application.
  • Get Your FSA ID Now: If you plan on completing the FAFSA online, you will need an FSA ID, which is a username and password combination that allows you to sign your FAFSA electronically. Although this can be done when you are completing the FAFSA, it is also possible to get your FSA ID now so that you will have one less thing to do in January. Visit the FSA ID website, enter your Social Security number, name, date of birth, mailing address, e-mail address, telephone number, language preference and provide answers to the five challenge questions. Agree to the terms and conditions listed, and you will be good to go.
  • Start Gathering Information: The information that is required on the FAFSA is very well known, so there is no reason you cannot begin collecting your documentation now. Put together a folder or computer file where you can store this information so it will be readily available. You will need Social Security numbers for the student and parents, as well as driver’s license information for the student. Put any end-of-year documentation such as earnings statements, bank statements, and investment summaries into the folder so you can find it when needed. You will also want to gather any records of untaxed income, such as child support received, interest income, and veterans’ non-education benefits.

You will need to complete the January FAFSA using information from your 2015 Federal Income Tax return, but you do not need to wait until your return is completed to file the FAFSA. It is easier to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to populate the FAFSA fields if your tax return has been filed, but you can also estimate your information and then go back and make any revisions once your tax return is complete.

There is no fee for filing the FAFSA. Get your information together in December, and you’ll be ready to complete the last January FAFSA.