Financial Aid

The New FAFSA: What’s In It for You?

Kathryn Knight Randolph

September 07, 2017

The New FAFSA: What’s In It for You?
Benefits of the new FAFSA release date -- October 1.
By now, you may have heard that the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, received a new release date last year: October 1. And if you haven’t heard – it’s kind of a big deal. The newer FAFSA will again come out on October 1 of this year, and in case you missed all of the updates last year, we've detailed them here: No more estimating. Filling out the FAFSA has always been tricky. It was previously released after January 1, and because many state deadlines fall in February or March, 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 2018 – June 2019, you can report your tax information from 2016.
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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