Get Ready for the New FAFSA: Applications Open October 1st
Attention High School Seniors and your Parents: College Financial Aid Season happens sooner than it used to. Last year, and in years past, the applications opened on January 1st, but starting this year the FAFSA applications open on October 1st. This change was designed to streamline the process, especially when it comes to the IRS forms.
MomsLA wanted to get more information about the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (otherwise known as FAFSA), so we reached out to an expert: Jodi Okun, founder of CollegeFinancialAidAdvisors.com, and author of “Secrets of a Financial Aid Pro: Master the College Funding Process and Give Your Child Lifelong Financial Skills Without Losing Your Cool.” Jodi is one of the “Top 30 Social Influencers in Personal Finance & Wealth,” according to Huffington Post. As the founder of College Financial Aid Advisors, she has helped thousands of families successfully navigate the financial aid process. Every Thursday at 5 pm PST, Jodi hosts #CollegeCash, a Twitter chat devoted to connecting college-bound families with higher education professionals.
Here are the questions we asked Jodi, and her answers are below.
1. Should parents plan to fill out the FAFSA forms and apply right away on October 1st? We’ve heard that the money used to be awarded first come, first served – but is that still true (and was it ever true)
Families should plan to submit their FAFSA as soon as possible. Some schools do award financial aid on a first come, first served basis and students do not want to miss a priority deadline. Remember, admission deadlines and financial aid deadlines are different! If your student is planning on applying Early Action or Early Decision, some schools have deadlines as soon as November 1st.
2. When we’re ready to fill out the application, what information will we need to have ready? 2015 Tax return info? Social Security #s? What else? What information does the form ask for?
To prepare for the FAFSA, I encourage students and one parent to create their FSA ID’s now. This is how you will log into the FAFSA. When the FAFSA goes live on October 1st, here is a link of all the information families will need to complete the FAFSA: https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa/filling-out. If eligible, families can use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to pull in their 2015 tax information to the FAFSA.
3. We’ve heard the form will be shorter (or more streamlined) this year. Is that true?
The biggest change to the FAFSA this year, which makes it more streamlined, is that families will be using their 2015 tax return instead of estimating their income on the form. It should take families about 20-30 minutes to complete the FAFSA. There is a ‘save’ button that allows families to come back to the application at a later time before submitting.
4. Can families at any income level qualify for financial aid? Are there levels of qualifying income? What are they?
There is no income cut off for financial aid. While some families may qualify for more aid than other families, I encourage all families to apply for financial aid. Aid is determined by more than just income alone and takes into consideration other factors like number of students in the household that are in college.
5. How long will the application be open now that they’ve made the date change?
The FAFSA for the 2017-2018 school year will be available from October 1, 2016 to June 30, 2018.
6. What else do we need to know about the new FAFSA?
Pay close attention to financial aid deadlines! Since the FAFSA is available earlier, some schools have made their priority deadlines earlier.
Sarah Auerswald is the co-Founder of MomsLA.com.