When Should You File the FAFSA?

on October 6, 2017

You should file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as it becomes available October 1.

 

The FAFSA has a 21-month application cycle. For example, the application season for the 2018-2019 FAFSA runs from October 1, 2017 through June 30, 2019.

 

Why should you file the FAFSA as soon as possible on or after October 1, given that you have until the end of the award year to file the form?

 

Although the deadline to apply for federal student aid is the last day of enrollment or June 30, whichever comes first, some forms of federal aid run out sooner. In particular, colleges receive a fixed allocation of campus-based aid, namely the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG), Federal Work-Study (FWS) and Federal Perkins Loans. When this money is fully awarded, it is gone. This is in contrast with the Federal Pell Grant and the Federal Direct Loans, which function like entitlements.

 

The FAFSA also is used to determine eligibility for state aid. Some states have very early deadlines for state aid.

  • Thirteen states award state aid on a first-come, first-served basis or until funds are depleted. These states include Alaska, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, Vermont and Washington.
     
  • Twelve states have February or March deadlines, including California, Connecticut, Idaho, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Oregon (private scholarships), Rhode Island, Texas (public colleges) and West Virginia (Promise Scholarships).
     
  • Only Louisiana and New York have the same June 30 deadline as the federal government.

Many colleges have early deadlines for applying for institutional financial aid funds. Some have priority deadlines in addition to regular deadlines for financial aid applications. Students who apply by the priority deadline might get a better mix of grants vs. loans than students who apply later.

 

Most colleges have fixed financial aid budgets and may run out of money for students who apply for financial aid later. This is why most colleges have need-sensitive admissions policies, as opposed to need-blind admissions.

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