The New FAFSA: What’s In It for You?

Benefits of the new FAFSA release date -- October 1.

By Kathryn Knight Randolph

September 28, 2016

The New FAFSA: What’s In It for You?

By now, you may have heard that the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, has a new release date this year: October 1. And if you haven’t heard – it’s kind of a big deal.

So what’s in it for you?

No more estimating.

Filling out the FAFSA has always been tricky. It’s released after January 1, many state deadlines fall in February or March and your taxes aren’t even due until April 15. With that, everyone has pretty much been estimating their tax information throughout the years.

The new FAFSA, however, hopes to get a more accurate picture of students’ financial circumstances. In addition to the new release date, the form will ask for the prior prior year tax statements. This means that if you’re attending school from July 2017 – June 2018, you can report your tax information from 2015.

With a more accurate picture of financial aid circumstances, students will receive a package that’s more congruent with what they need.

No more missing deadlines.

Because of its January 1 availability and prior year tax information requirements, many students and families were actually missing state deadlines, which tend to fall in February and March. Most financial aid is awarded on a first come, first serve basis, meaning students who file the FAFSA sooner get the greater advantage. So those students and families that were waiting until after their taxes were filed to complete the FAFSA were potentially missing out on financial aid dollars.

With the earlier release and use of prior prior year information, students will have plenty of time to fill out their forms for a better chance at financial aid.

No more confusion.

Deadlines, deadlines, deadlines. As a college applicant, there seem to be countless deadlines. Once the college deadlines have passed, the financial aid deadlines begin.

Releasing the FAFSA earlier allows students to stay in application mode. It just lines up better with the college application cycle, enabling students and families to take a breather over the holiday break in December instead of gearing up for the next big application.

The new FAFSA release date may come with its own set of issues; but for now, major problems have been solved for students and their families. Hopefully, it will help alleviate financial costs for those that may have been missing out before.

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