Students who plan to file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, to receive financial aid for college may do so beginning Saturday, Oct. 1, and those students need to know about two important changes to the FAFSA.
Starting with the 2017-18 financial aid application cycle, the following changes will take effect:
- Students will be able to submit a FAFSA earlier. Students will be able to file a 2017-18 FAFSA as early as Oct. 1. The earlier submission date will be a permanent change.
- Students will use earlier income information. Beginning with the 2017-18 FAFSA, students will be required to report income information from an earlier tax year. For example, on the 2017-18 FAFSA, students (and parents, as appropriate) will report their 2015 income information, rather than their 2016 income information.
To apply for financial aid, most students complete the FAFSA online at www.fafsa.gov. Filing an online FAFSA is the fastest and easiest way to apply for aid. The online FAFSA will guide you through the application; click on the “Start A New FAFSA” button on the home page, and follow the directions on the screen.
Students should pay very close attention to financial aid-related deadlines. Students should check their state and school deadlines so they don’t miss out on any aid. State deadlines are on www.fafsa.gov; school deadlines are on schools’ websites.
“As a university dedicated to helping all qualified students achieve their college dreams, we want to be sure that students who are eligible for need-based financial aid apply for and receive the maximum amount of aid possible,” said University of Florida President Kent Fuchs. “With that goal in mind, we hope that students and their families pay close attention to the new rules and deadlines for submitting an aid application.”
By filing a FAFSA close to Oct. 1, high school seniors should know earlier about their expected family contributions, which should be useful as they compare schools and evaluate costs. Although students must be accepted for enrollment before they are considered for financial aid, they should apply for financial aid before being admitted. Current and prospective college students who overlook the October FAFSA kickoff and procrastinate too long, risk losing out on aid.
“Financial aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis so students should apply as early as possible to be considered for the most, and best aid,” said Rick Wilder, UF’s director of student financial affairs. Many schools have what’s called a priority filing deadline. “UF’s ‘On-Time’ priority deadline to receive the results of the 2017-18 FAFSA from the federal processor is Dec. 15, 2016. Students should apply well before the priority deadline,” Wilder said.
The easiest way to complete your FAFSA with accurate tax information is by using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool on the online application. In a few simple steps, most students and parents who filed a 2015 tax return can view and transfer their tax return information directly into their FAFSA.
Students and families can get free assistance and answers to their FAFSA questions at www.fafsa.gov or 1-800-433-3243. FAFSA help sessions are also available at high schools and colleges throughout Florida.
Completing the FAFSA is the first step toward getting financial aid for college, career school, or graduate school. The FAFSA not only gives you access to the $150 billion in grants, loans, and work-study funds that the federal government has available, but many states, schools, and private scholarships require you to submit the FAFSA before they will consider you for any financial aid they offer. That’s why it’s important that every college-bound student complete the FAFSA as soon as possible after Oct. 1. You’ll never know what funds you can get unless you apply.