When Is The FAFSA Due
If you’re in the throes of college application season, then you’re probably aware that there are major changes coming for the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) this year. If not, you should definitely take a look at this blog post I wrote earlier in the year which outlines some of the biggest changes.
Because of all of these changes, the Department of Education has had to postpone the opening date for the 24-25 FAFSA application. Normally, it would be available on October 1st each year, much like another common financial aid application form, the CSS Profile. We don’t yet have an exact date for the FAFSA, but the Department of Education has announced that it will be available sometime in December.
December? Isn’t that AFTER many college applications are due? Yes, that’s true. Here’s what you need to know about due dates when it comes to applying for financial aid.
FAFSA Due Date & Deadlines in general
The most important thing I can tell you about deadlines is that you need to check each school’s deadlines carefully. Each school will have its own application timeline and deadlines. School application deadlines are often earlier than financial aid application deadlines, giving you a chance to get the school application in and then switch your focus to the financial side and still have everything submitted on time.
Some schools will be changing things up a bit this year to account for the FAFSA opening up later than usual. This could be especially true for students applying early decision and early action. With many early decision deadlines falling in November and students receiving a decision as early as December, many of these schools will likely be using the CSS Profile on which to base their financial aid awards since the FAFSA will not yet be available.
In general, it is highly likely that CSS Profile deadlines will precede those for the FAFSA at many schools.
Students and their parents will need to have a little extra patience this year while waiting to hear from schools about their financial aid packages. The delayed FAFSA will put most schools behind a bit and require them to squeeze all of their financial aid reviews into a shorter period of time.
Not only will schools be squeezed for time between getting the FAFSA submissions and sending Financial Award Letters to students, but families will probably be squeezed for time as well. There is a good chance that the number of days between when the FAFSA becomes available and when it is due will be much less than in past years. That is significant because, not only does it give you less time to procrastinate, but it also means that more people are likely to be using the system at the same time. From an IT perspective, this could cause issues, although I sincerely hope it doesn’t.
If the schools on your list haven’t posted updated information about when the FAFSA will be due, look for that information to be updated on their website in the next month or two. As of the writing of this blog, many schools have not updated their admissions website pages to account for this change. This is likely due to the continued uncertainty around when the FAFSA will be available.
Rest assured that they are aware of the change and will not fault you for not turning in your FAFSA “on time” if they are still showing a due date on their website that is prior to December. However, if you have a question about deadlines at a specific school, be sure to contact your admissions counselor to find out what you need to know.
While you’re waiting to get in and complete the FAFSA, one thing you can do is be prepared by applying for your FSA ID. One parent and the student will need to each have their own ID to electronically sign the FAFSA form.
My advice is to get in and complete your financial aid forms earlier rather than later. Most students will be getting money from the school endowments rather than the federal government, and that money is limited. Try to have your CSS Profile completed in October if you have schools on your list that require it.
For the FAFSA, make an effort to complete it within a month of it’s becoming available as well. With both forms, if you have a deadline that is earlier – be sure to meet that deadline.
What If I’m In College Already?
If you are receiving any need-based grants or federal student aid, you must fill out the FAFSA every year, so go ahead and put a reminder to do that in December or January this year and in October next year and beyond.
Too Many Deadlines
I know that organization is not everyone’s strong suit, but it is essential to college planning. Make sure you have a calendar that you check regularly. Putting a reminder on the actual due date is not good enough for most people.
Make sure you also put a couple of reminders 2 and 4 weeks in advance to be sure you start working on these forms and applications in plenty of time to get them done when they’re due. They’re usually going to be more complicated, ask more questions and pry into more details than you anticipated, so don’t put this off until the last minute.
The Bottom Line
Everyone recognizes that this year is going to be a bit different because of the FAFSA changes. Be prepared for a quick turn around with the FAFSA by getting everything else done beforehand that you can. Complete your applications, CSS Profile and FSA ID application by the end of November so that all you need to do in December is finish the FAFSA.