What You Need To Know for This Week’s FAFSA Launch

Two changes expand eligibility for financial aid

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Applications for federal financial aid for college open this week for the upcoming school year, and—with aid doled out on a first-come, first-served basis—getting the form done sooner rather than later is a good idea. 

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, for the 2022-23 academic year goes live Friday, Oct. 1. To maximize your chances of receiving aid, you should begin filling it out as soon as possible. It’s the only way to get federal aid—loans, grants, or work-study placements—and many states and schools also use the form to determine their financial aid packages. Applications stay open until June 30 of the academic year the aid is intended for—that’s the end of June 2023 for the next school year—so technically you can apply for aid retroactively. But some resources may be exhausted by then, and it’s usually better to have the money sooner anyway.

“Because some forms of aid are limited and made available on a first- come, first- served basis, it’s best to be at the front of the line,” wrote Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, a certified financial planner with Charles Schwab and president of the Charles Schwab Foundation.

The FAFSA application can be found online at fafsa.gov.

You’ll need a few things to get started. The first is a Federal Student Aid ID, which you can apply for on studentaid.gov, a government website that contains information about all-things financial aid, including the FAFSA. To apply for an ID, and also to fill out the FAFSA, you need to have a Social Security number. If you don’t have one, you’re not eligible for federal student aid.

Next, you need income and asset information for you and your parents if you can be counted as a dependent on their tax return. Some of this information can be collected online using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, which imports data for what FAFSA calls the prior-prior year—in other words, the 2021 tax return, (which contains income information for the calendar year 2020) for the  academic year starting next fall.

You can sign the form electronically and so can your parents, but they will have to sign up for their own FSA ID with their own Social Security number to do so. If neither parent has a Social Security number, they won’t be able to create an FSA ID and you’ll have to print, sign, and mail a paper version of the completed FAFSA form.

Finally, you’ll need to list the schools you’re interested in attending, up to 10 at one time, on the form. These schools will receive your FAFSA results automatically.

Those familiar with FAFSA may notice a few changes on the 2022-23 form. Most notable are two moves that expand eligibility by eliminating the Selective Service requirement and removing a stipulation regarding drug convictions.

Here’s what’s new for this year:

  • Not being registered with the Selective Service System does not affect eligibility anymore. All men aged 18 to 25 are required by federal law to register with the Selective Service System, which could be used in the event of a military draft. Previously, students who were required to register with the Selective Service but hadn’t done so could not receive federal financial aid. That’s no longer the case, although students can still register for Selective Service through the FAFSA form. In a June memo, the government said the change to expand eligibility was made too late to remove the questions from the 2022-23 form.
  • Having a drug conviction while receiving federal student aid no longer disqualifies you from receiving aid in the future. Students will still be asked on this year’s form whether they ever had a drug conviction while getting federal aid. But the answer will not affect their eligibility, Federal Student Aid said, and students should answer the questions honestly. This change was also too late for the questions to be removed from the 2022-23 form.
  • The online version of the form will look different than in years past. It’s been updated to match a redesign of the Federal Student Aid website.
  • At the start of the online process, whoever fills out the form will be able to select whether they are a student, parent of a student, or a preparer before they begin completing the FAFSA form itself.

Have a question, comment, or story to share? You can reach Rob at ranthes@thebalance.com.