It’s FAFSA time already?

Teenage Boy Studying At Desk In Bedroom

By Bethany Schweitzer, JD, PhD

Independent College Consultant, College Ready, LLC

It feels weird to say this in October, but financial aid season is upon us!  In years past, filling out financial aid paperwork has primarily taken place in January with due dates in February and March.  This year the opening date for the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) has moved from January 1 to October 1.  Last year families used their prior year’s tax returns to complete the FAFSA.  This year they are using the prior prior year’s tax returns, hence why many in the industry are referring to this as the prior prior year FAFSA.

So what do you need to know about the prior prior year?  First, deadlines are all over the place.  Some colleges are holding to their old timeline.  The Ohio State University, for example, has a February 15th priority deadline for filling out your FAFSA.  Marist College, on the other hand, has a priority deadline of November 1.  As in years past each college sets its own priority deadline for financial aid.  However, this is the first year that the deadlines for financial aid and completing the FAFSA can be as early as November 1 and as late as March or April.  The good news, for this year, many colleges are still using the old financial aid calendar with priority deadlines in February and March.

Our advice?  Watch your deadlines carefully.  Talk to each financial aid office to determine dates and deadlines.  Waiting to file the FAFSA can drastically decrease your financial aid award.  When talking to your prospective colleges take note of the financial aid deadlines for applying early action, early decision and regular decision.  This can also dictate your financial aid deadline.

Don’t forget about the CSS/PROFILE.  The CSS/PROFILE is an additional financial aid application that some colleges require.  The CSS/PROFILE opens October 1.  Again, like the FAFSA, each school sets its own deadline for the CSS/PROFILE.  Go the the CollegeBoard website to determine if your prospective college requires the CSS/PROFILE in addition to the FAFSA.