File the FAFSA® beginning October 1st
Next year comes a little earlier.
There's been some big changes to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) this year, and if you're a family applying for financial aid, you'll want to make sure you understand what's different. If you're not yet familiar with the FAFSA, you should know that it's the main application for college financial aid, and every college and university in the country requires it. Beginning this year, you'll be able to complete and submit the FAFSA much earlier than in previous years. You'll also reference income from two years prior, using your 2015 tax return, to answer several FAFSA questions.
Here's the scoop:
- The 2017-18 FAFSA becomes available on October 1, 2016, which is earlier than the opening date in previous years of January 1st. The 2017-18 FAFSA should be completed by every family sending a student to college during the 2017-18 academic year.
- The 2017-18 FAFSA will ask for information about your family's 2015 income (income two years prior), which differs from the FAFSA in past years, that requested income information from the previous year. Most families will have filed their 2015 tax return at this point, and as such, will be able to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool when filing the FAFSA, a helpful resource that electronically imports tax return information directly from the IRS to the FAFSA, saving families time and effort as they answer FAFSA questions. If your family has experienced a change such as a job loss, divorce, or reduction in salary, you should let the college financial aid offices know of income fluctuations from 2015 to 2016.
- The earlier date doesn't necessarily mean that financial aid offices will send you your financial aid offer in the fall. Although you may be able to apply for financial aid in October, in all likelihood you may still need to wait until February or March for your financial aid (and college acceptance) letter.
There is one piece of advice that remains as important as ever with the FAFSA: adhere to all financial aid application deadlines at the colleges to which you're applying. College deadlines will vary, so make sure you check the earliest deadline at each college, and submit the FAFSA before that date. Whether or not you have three months or one month to file the FAFSA, if you miss a filing deadline at a college, you may not be eligible for financial aid. And if you have any questions as you navigate the financial aid process, reach out to us here at MEFA. We can be reached at (800) 449-MEFA (6332) and firstname.lastname@example.org.