The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known as the FAFSA, opened October 1.To qualify for federal loans and Pell grants, applicants must complete the FAFSA.
But year after year, students and families leave billions of dollars in award money on the table.
Many families may not realize that some financial aid is provided on a first come, first serve basis.
“Schools and states have a limited amount of aid, and a bunch of states have a FAFSA deadline of ‘as soon as possible after October 1,’ (meaning they actually could run out of financial aid) so it’s good to be at the front of the line!” according to the Department of Education’s public blog.
Another hurdle standing in students’ way may be the form itself, which is notoriously difficult to fill out even for the savviest of applicants.
But the Department of Education attempted to improve the process with an overhaul of the FAFSA. For the second time, the form opened three months earlier than the normal January 1 start date. The earlier start time has the added benefit of allowing families to use 2016 tax information rather than guesstimating for the most recent year ended. Previously, families had to look ahead to their April filings.
Families can also directly import tax information from their previous IRS filings into the FAFSA, which should make the process a bit easier.
The bottom line is the sooner families log in and submit their FAFSA forms, the better.