The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, otherwise known as the FAFSA, is a common 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.
File the FAFSA ASAP
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. Corrections 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 academic 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 deadline.
Students and their families should file the FAFSA 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 – 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) and Washington (WA) – award state grants as soon as possible on or after October 1 or until funds are depleted. An additional 10 states have deadlines in December, January, February or March, including California (CA), Connecticut (CT), Idaho (ID), Maryland (MD), Michigan (MI), Missouri (MO), Montana (MT), Rhode Island (RI), Texas (TX) and West Virginia (WV).
College can have early FAFSA deadlines
Some colleges also have early financial aid deadlines, sometimes called priority deadlines, for the college’s own financial aid funds. Even when the college FAFSA deadlines are earlier, the colleges must still use the government FAFSA deadlines for federal and state 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 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.
Federal FAFSA start dates and deadlines
This table shows the federal FAFSA deadlines for the last few years. The FAFSA must be submitted by midnight central time on June 30. The FAFSA switched from prior year income and tax information to prior-prior year income and tax information in 2017-2018.
|Academic Year||Start Date||Deadline||Base Year||PY or PPY|
A good place to start