The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, otherwise known as the FAFSA, is a financial aid application form used to apply for financial aid from the federal government, state governments and most colleges and universities. The FAFSA application season officially starts on October 1, and the FAFSA deadline is typically June 30, or the end of the academic year, whichever comes first.
The FAFSA deadline is the same whether you are an undergraduate student or a graduate student. You must complete the FAFSA to be considered for federal financial aid.
Why You Should File the FAFSA as Soon as Possible
The FAFSA deadline is at midnight Central Time (CT) on June 30 of the academic year or the end of the academic year (the last day of enrollment), whichever comes first. However, you can make corrections to the FAFSA after it closes, but they must be submitted by mid-September, about two and a half months after the June 30 deadline.
Although students have until the end of the school year or June 30 to qualify for federal student aid, it is best to file the FAFSA much sooner. The college financial aid office must have received a valid output document (a SAR or an ISIR) by the FAFSA deadline.
Students and their families should file the FAFSA form as soon as possible on or after October 1. October 1 is not a deadline, so much as a start date, but students who file the FAFSA later may miss out on some forms of financial aid.
Students who file the FAFSA during the first three months tend to get twice as much grants, on average, as compared with students who file the FAFSA later.
Some Federal Student Aid Runs Out
While federal student loans and the Federal Pell Grant function like an entitlement, federal campus-based aid is more limited. Each college gets a fixed allocation of Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) and Federal Work-Study (FWS) funding, so the money can run out.
State Grants May Have Early FAFSA Deadlines
Some state grant programs have very early FAFSA deadlines.
More than a dozen states award state grants as soon as possible on or after October 1 or until funds are depleted.
- Alaska (AK)
- Illinois (IL)
- Indiana (IN)
- Kentucky (KY)
- Nevada (NV)
- North Carolina (NC)
- North Dakota (ND)
- Oklahoma (OK)
- Oregon (OR)
- South Carolina (SC)
- Tennessee (TN)
- Utah (UT)
- Vermont (VT)
- Washington (WA)
An additional nine states have deadlines in December, January, February or March:
- California (CA)
- Connecticut (CT)
- Idaho (ID)
- Maryland (MD)
- Michigan (MI)
- Missouri (MO)
- Montana (MT)
- Texas (TX)
- West Virginia (WV)
Colleges May Have Early FAFSA Deadlines
Some colleges also have early financial aid deadlines, sometimes called a priority deadline, for the college’s own institutional aid. Even when the college FAFSA deadlines are earlier, the colleges must still use the government FAFSA deadlines for federal aid and state financial aid.
About 200 mostly private colleges and universities use a supplemental form, the CSS Profile, for awarding their own financial aid funds. These colleges must also still use the FAFSA for federal and state aid. The CSS Profile has the same October 1 start date as the FAFSA.
Get a FSA ID Early, Too
The student and his/her parents or spouse can obtain an FSA ID prior to October 1. The FSA ID is an electronic signature used to sign the FAFSA online. You don’t have to wait until October 1 to get a FSA ID. It is a good idea to get a FSA ID before October 1 because students and parents have reported problems with getting or using an FSA ID. Families have also reported problems with expiring FSA IDs and updating the FSA ID’s password. The FSA ID must be renewed every 18 months.
What Happens if You Miss the FAFSA Deadline?
Missing the FAFSA deadline isn’t good. If a college student doesn’t submit the form by the June 30 deadline, they likely won’t be eligible to receive federal financial aid for the current award year.
If you miss your college or state deadline, it’s still worth the effort of filling out the FAFSA and submitting it. Some states and schools may still have funds to provide to late applicants.
But, the amount you receive is likely to be lower than it would have been if you’d applied before the final deadline.
There may also be other financial assistance available. Your school’s financial aid office may be able to help you find scholarships, grants or an emergency loan fund that you can use to pay for some of your expenses. If you still come up short you may want to consider a private student loan. A private loan with a competitive interest rate is a great supplement to savings, financial aid and federal student loans.
Regardless of why you missed the FAFSA deadline, take some steps to make sure you don’t miss it again. Gather the necessary information before the October 1 release of the FAFSA for the next academic year and submit your application as quickly as possible.