Fill Out the FAFSA Starting October 1
This is my favorite time of year—the start of school. Our entering students are on campus excitedly beginning their new adventure and returning students have eagerly started the new academic year.
Now that everyone is settled into their residence hall and classes, it’s time to start thinking about next year—2019-2020.
High school seniors are deep in the admission application process, writing essays and getting recommendations. And I know you all are waiting on the edge of your seats for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to open on October 1. If you’re not, you should be and here’s why:
The FAFSA Determines your Eligibility for Need-Based Financial Aid
The FAFSA is the gateway for financial aid. This free application determines your eligibility for all federal, as well as most state and institutional, need-based financial aid awards. While it sounds intimidating, the application is simple. This year you can even do it on your mobile device. The key is to take your time and read the instructions. Most people need less than an hour to finish the application, including finding the information. That is a small amount of time for a potentially large financial reward.
Will I Really Get Anything?
My hard and fast answer is, it’s worth it to try. There is no income limit or easy way to determine how much you will receive. That’s exactly why you should do it. Beyond what you will receive from the federal or state government, schools, foundations and other institutions, use the information to award need-based grants. How the different groups define “need” can vary.
Avoid These Common FAFSA Mistakes
Remember, you have to fill out the FAFSA every year. The FAFSA is available starting October 1 and you should fill out the FAFSA as soon as possible each year. Learn more.
When Should I Complete the FAFSA?
On October 1 (or as close to October 1 as possible). There is no reason not to complete the FAFSA. The FAFSA uses the prior year's taxes. For students looking to start in the fall of 2019, that means 2017 taxes, which should be complete and filed away. In most cases, you can use the Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) embedded in the FAFSA to pull your tax info into the application. Using the DRT cuts the application time well below that hour timeframe.
If you complete the FAFSA now, you don’t have to worry about extra pesky deadlines. There are enough deadlines related to admission applications and independent scholarships. Some schools have a deadline for when you must file the FAFSA to receive institutional grants, and states often have limited funds that are made available on a FAFSA filing date basis, with first-filed awarded first.
Complete the FAFSA now, you can check it off your list and not worry about individual school deadlines. And remember, you need to complete the FAFSA every year.