2 Major FAFSA® Changes You Need to Be Aware Of


2 Major FAFSA Changes

There are two exciting changes coming to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) process this year.

1. The 2017–18 FAFSA will be available earlier.

You can file your 2017–18 FAFSA as early as Oct. 1, 2016, rather than beginning on Jan. 1, 2017. The earlier submission date will be a permanent change, enabling you to complete and submit a FAFSA as early as October 1 every year.

2. You’ll use earlier income and tax information.

Beginning with the 2017–18 FAFSA, you’ll be required to report income and tax info from an earlier tax year. For example, on the 2017–18 FAFSA, you—and your parent(s), as appropriate—will report your 2015 income and tax info, rather than your 2016 income and tax info.

We understand that some families’ income may have changed significantly since the 2015 tax year. If this is the case for you, you must complete the FAFSA with the info it asks for (2015). Then, after filing your FAFSA, contact the financial aid office at your school to explain your situation. The school has the ability to assess your situation and make adjustments to your FAFSA.

The following table provides a summary of key dates as we transition to using the early FAFSA submission timeframe and earlier tax information.

When a Student Is Attending College (School Year) When a Student Can Submit a FAFSA Which Year’s Income Tax Information Is Required
July 1, 2015–June 30, 2016 January 1, 2015–June 30, 2016 2014
July 1, 2016–June 30, 2017 January 1, 2016–June 30, 2017 2015
July 1, 2017–June 30, 2018 October 1, 2016–June 30, 2018 2015
July 1, 2018–June 30, 2019 October 1, 2017–June 30, 2019 2016


We know you probably have some questions. Here are some we’ve been hearing from students:

How will the changes benefit me?

You might find that the FAFSA process is easier than you expected.

  • From now on, the FAFSA will ask for older income and tax information that you will already have. This change means you won’t have to use estimates anymore, or log in later to update your FAFSA after you file taxes!
  • Having the FAFSA available three months earlier will give you more time to meet most deadlines (although some will be early, so fill out the FAFSA right away just in case) and to explore and understand your financial aid options.

Since the 2017–18 FAFSA asks for the same tax and income information as the 2016–17 FAFSA, will my 2016–17 FAFSA info automatically be carried over into my 2017–18 renewal FAFSA?

No. Too much could have changed since you filed your last FAFSA, and there’s no way to predict what might be different, so you’ll need to enter the information again.

Do I have to update my 2017–18 FAFSA with my 2016 tax information after I file my 2016 taxes?

No. The 2017–18 FAFSA asks for 2015 tax info, and only 2015. Beginning October 1, you can fully submit the FAFSA in one sitting using your 2015 tax info. No updating necessary. (Hooray!)

But what if my family’s financial situation has changed since our 2015 taxes were filed? Can we report our 2016 tax information instead?

No. You must report your 2015 tax info on the 2017–18 FAFSA. You do not have the option to report your 2016 tax info. If your family has experienced a loss of income since the 2015 tax year, talk to the financial aid office at your school. They have the ability to assess your situation and make adjustments.

Note: The FAFSA asks for marital status as of the day you fill it out. So if you’re married now but weren’t in 2015 (and therefore didn’t file taxes as married), you’ll need to add your spouse’s income to your FAFSA.

Similarly, if you filed your 2015 taxes as married but you’re no longer married when you fill out the FAFSA, you’ll need to subtract your spouse’s income.

Since I’m required to report my 2015 tax information, do I also answer all the other questions on the FAFSA using information from 2015?

No. Here’s a guide for which year’s info you should use to answer the different types of questions on the FAFSA.

Will FAFSA deadlines be earlier since the application is launching earlier?

We expect that most state and school deadlines will remain approximately the same as in 2016–17. However, several states that offer first come, first served financial aid will change their deadlines from “as soon as possible after January 1” to “as soon as possible after October 1.” So, as always, it’s important that you check your state and school deadlines so that you don’t miss out on any aid. State deadlines are on fafsa.gov; school deadlines are on schools’ websites.

Can I fill out the FAFSA before I submit my college applications?

Yes, you can fill out the FAFSA even before you’ve submitted your college applications. Add every school you’re considering to your FAFSA, even if you haven’t applied or been accepted yet. Even if you’re on the fence about applying to a particular school, add it. It will hold your place in line for financial aid in case you end up applying for admission at that school. You can always remove schools later if you decide not to apply (but you don’t have to).

Will I receive aid offers earlier if I apply earlier?

Not necessarily; some schools will make offers earlier while others won’t. If you’re applying to multiple schools or thinking of transferring to another school, you might want to look at the College Scorecard to compare costs at different schools while you wait for your aid offers to arrive. Note: You should be aware that the maximum Federal Pell Grant for 2017–18 might not be known until early 2017, so keep in mind that even if you do receive an aid offer early, it could change due to various factors.

Where can I get more information about—and help with—the FAFSA?

Visit StudentAid.gov/fafsa/filling-out; and remember, as you fill out your FAFSA at fafsa.gov, you can refer to help text for every question and (during certain times of day) chat online with a customer service representative.

2017-18 FAFSA Changes


nicole and cindyCindy Forbes Cameron and Nicole Callahan work in Customer Experience at the Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid, where they help shape communications about applying for, receiving, and repaying financial aid.





  1. I have a friend who has 2 children going to the same college (in-state). They have told me that they have to fill out the FAFSA three times every year for each child. They have done this now for two years!! Why on earth would someone have to do this, since every single school I have every attended and filled out for my children has only required the filing once a year! I can not find any information of any kind as to why this may be the case.

    • The FAFSA is an annual application, so you complete it once a year. If you transfer to a new college, you may need to update your existing FAFSA. Your friend’s children might be getting selected for verification, which sometimes happens after you file the FAFSA. Some people are selected at random; and some schools verify all students’ FAFSAs.

  2. In addition to my previous questions, please answer:

    Actually, should I include my excluded foreign income somewhere on the FAFSA? The 2016-2017 Completing the FAFSA guide states that foreign income should be treated as US income, but when I called the FAFSA hotline, I was told not to include anywhere on FAFSA the income that was excluded when I filed Form 2555. So now I am confused!

    • Sorry for the delay and any confusion this has caused! Below is the official text regarding foreign income exclusion:

      If a U.S. tax filer earns foreign income, part of that income might be excluded from taxable income (using a Form 2555 or 2555EZ). This income counts as untaxed income, so the FAFSA tells the applicant to include the amount from line 43 of Form 2555 or line 18 of Form 2555EZ in Worksheet B.

      Does that clear things up? We will communicate with our hotline unit about the phone representative giving you conflicting (and incorrect) information.

  3. I am a US citizen living overseas and the parent of a US citizen applying to college now. I filed a US 1040 and paid taxes on income I earned from the US. My main income, however, is earned in the foreign country where I live. I do not file a tax return there, but I pay taxes on that income; the taxes are deducted from my pay. Along with my US 1040, I file a Form 2555, Foreign Income Exclusion, and my foreign income is excluded from my AGI. I understand I do not include the excluded foreign income on FAFSA, but what about the taxes I pay overseas? On the FAFSA, do I add the amount of foreign taxes I paid to the amount of income tax I paid to the US?

  4. I have completed my fafsa but I’m stuck on my income. I am a freshman in college and during my senior year I worked so I completed my income tax. Nowe that I’m in college I stopped working so it’s not the same income. How do I fill out that part of fafsa?

    • You will be required to use 2015 tax information. You will not have the option to input 2016 financial info on the 2017-18 FAFSA. If there are financial or family circumstances that cannot be reflected on your FAFSA, contact the school’s financial aid office to ask for a “professional judgment” review.

  5. Previously there was an extra $300 grant for my son if we filed by Feb 15th. I can’t find any info on this in the new deadlines. Is this extra money for early filing of the fafsa going away?

    • It depends on the grant, the grant might have a new deadline for the 2017-18 FAFSA. That doesn’t sound like the Federal Pell Grant, so it might be a different grant offered by your state or the college your son attends. Find out what the grant is and contact the program that runs it to see if something has changed this year.

  6. My husband lost his job in July, 2016. I understand after completing the FAFSA, we will now need to contact the financial aid office for a professional judgemnt review. But what If my daughter (HS Senior and has already been accepted to a particular college) isn’t 100% sure this is where she wants to go or can even afford to go to college? Do we still ask that school to review our change in income or do we have to wait until she’s going there for sure? In other words, will the financial office work with us even if she hasn’t made a commitment to attend there yet?

    • You should ask the school even if your daughter has not committed. The financial aid office is there to help you. Remember, that school wants your daughter to enroll as a student too, so it’s in your favor to see if any adjustments are possible to help her afford the cost of attendance.

  7. This is the most ridiculous step the goverment has ever done. There is no way that this is to help the students. Have been to financial aid office? Do you have any idea how long those lines are? Why inconvenience the student in such a fashion? If you don’t accept info from the 2016 taxes then how or when does my adjusted gross income come into play? How about my w2? Bravo fasfa. I guess now you can make sure these students have to take out loans.

    • In the past, many people assumed that you should wait until you file taxes in the spring before completing your FAFSA. This resulted in many people missing out on possible aid they could’ve been eligible for if they did not miss a priority deadline. For instance, some state and college aid have a limited pool of funds which is distributed on a first come, first served basis. Those that filed as soon as possible after January 1 (this year, it was October 1) had the best chance of getting this aid. Those who waited until they filed taxes might’ve missed out. Moving forward, the FAFSA will always ask for older tax information and you will NOT have to use estimates or log back in to make updates after filing taxes. For instance, the 2018–19 FAFSA will ask for 2016 income and tax info.

      • My daughter applied for Oklahoma Promise her sophomore year and met the requirements. The rules then stated that we would have a second check at the end of her Senior year thru FAFSA. FAFSA has now changed the rules to where we are required to use our 2015 tax returns and not our 2016.
        At the beginning of 2015 my husband had to take out his 401k to avoid bankruptcy so our taxes show more income than what we receive on a normal year.
        None of this would have been a problem until these rule changes which now disqualify my daughter from receiving Oklahoma Promise which covers her tuition so she can go to college in the fall of 2017.
        How is this helping my family?

        • Unfortunately, we do not administer or manage state financial aid programs. Contact the program to see if they can make any adjustments to your aid. Provide any documentation you feel is necessary to support your case.

  8. Can someone advise whether Total Income Tax refers to tax due (but offset with for example foreign tax credits) or Tax Paid (after application of foreign tax credits?

    Also, if my son’s interest income is reported on my taxes and he has not filed, do i separately report the income somewhere?

    • It’s the total tax amount for 2015: https://fafsa.ed.gov/fotw1718/help/fotw16e.htm
      Income tax = the amount of tax that your parents paid on the income that they earned from work. Your parents’ income tax amount should not be the same as their adjusted gross income (AGI). If you’re eligible to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool it will pull all the information for you.

      If your son did not file 2015 taxes he can select “Not going to file.” The student and parent sections of the FAFSA are separate.

  9. When I filed the 2015 taxes, I filled them married jointly but now I’m separated. How can I answer the questions regarding the taxes with only my information?

  10. What if I’m attending a graduate program next year, which I would be considered an Independent but previous years I have been a dependent

  11. I’m never married/single with a new child born in 2014. Her mom and I are a couple (bf/gf) but live in 2 separate households (45 minutes apart). I have my new daughter at my house 3 days of the week and pay for all her needs (while she is here). I go up to her mom’s house every weekend so you could actually say we both spend over 50% of our time with her. I also pay her health insurance. None of this arrangement is through the courts and I’m ok with her mom claiming her on her taxes which she did in 2014 and 2015.
    My question is how can this extra expense be accounted for when it comes to my older daughter’s financial aid? She is a high school senior this year who I’ve raised by myself as a single parent since she was 6 months old.

  12. I plan out filing out fafsa form Oct 1 for 2017. My mom is remarrying Dec 2016. Would that effect my aid.
    Thank you,

    • It will change how you complete your FAFSA in the future because you will need to include your legal stepparent’s financial information. You’ll see a question that says “As of today, what is the marital status of your legal parents?” and if your mother is not legally married by the time you complete your FAFSA, you do not report her future spouse’s info. However, if you complete the FAFSA again next year, you need to include her spouse.

      • Maria, they stated…”We understand that some families’ income may have changed significantly since the 2015 tax year. If this is the case for you, you must complete the FAFSA with the info it asks for (2015). Then, after filing your FAFSA, contact the financial aid office at your school to explain your situation. The school has the ability to assess your situation and make adjustments to your FAFSA.”

        • They won’t change it for something simple. It has to be a forced hardship. I quit my job to go to school full time, but the Fafsa still used my 2015 taxes from when I was still working. They rejected my request for an alteration because it wasn’t a hardship that forced my income down, it was just me wanting to take a maximum load of courses.

  13. Can we fill out the fafsa before October 1st , save it and submit it October 1st or is it not possible to save the information and do we have to file it the same day we fill it out

  14. Im a sibgle parent of t hree kids. Im going to college and i filled a fasa out and it said i wasnt able to get it. But now my son goes to college n the bill is over 3,000.00 can i fill out a dasa for him or does it go under me?

  15. I had to file for bankruptcy and I am loosing my house. And i had to pay the irs this year. My daughter started college this september. Could I have reported this to 2016 fasfa?

    • The 2017-18 FAFSA will ask about your income and tax information from 2015, so even though you had a higher income in 2015 you still must report that. After filing, contact the school’s financial aid office to ask for a “professional judgment” review. Explain your situation and provide any documentation you feel is necessary. The school is usually able to help if there are significant changes (like your house) that cannot be reported on the FAFSA.

  16. Can you sign and submit completed application online before October 1st 2016 for 2017/18 year? Will it just hold it until October 1st? Or does it have to be on October 1st that you submit it electronically?

    • You cannot save an application beforehand because the new application (it will say FAFSA 2017-2018) only shows up on October 1st, 2016. Hence why you have to wait til that date to sign and submit the application. Although it is the same information technically,

      • Only the 2015 tax/income information is the same. You still have to answer all of the other FAFSA questions applicable to the day you’re filling it out. For instance, a few things may have changed since the last time you completed your FAFSA such as your household size or marital status of you or your parent(s).

  17. My daughter is in her first year for her masters degree, her status this year is considered independent . For the tax year 2015 her status was dependant, does she need to include her parents information in the new Fasfa since they are asking for 2015 tax information

    • Doesn’t matter how many dependents you report to the IRS, that is not related to the FAFSA.

  18. I am still not clear about the changes in marital status. W4s always require us to file single if spouse does not have a social security number. But FAFSA is requiring us to say we are married. My husband does not live in the United States. My tax deductions are based on single rate. So do I claim single or married on FAFSA? It’s confusing

    • The FAFSA will ask about your current marital status (like that day you’re typing in your FAFSA), which is separate from the taxes part. It will say “As of today, are you married?” and if you say “Yes,” you’re considered to be an independent student and will not provide information about your parents on the FAFSA. However, you will still be asked to report tax information from 2015 about you AND your spouse. You must report your information separately, no matter if you file taxes joint or separate. You can designate yourself to be “Parent 1” and your spouse to be “Parent 2” for example.

  19. In using my taxes for the FASFA application my child submits, you will be looking at the income of myself and her stepfather, who is not legally obligated to support her through college. How are we able to apply using just my income and that of her biological father?

    • You won’t be able to choose which parent’s info you report. You must provide financial info from the stepparent that is legally married to the legal parent whose information you’re reporting.

  20. My daughter is a senior this year but she still has to do her internship for one semester next year which we pay the college for. Does she still file a FAFSA?

    • You mean a senior in college? Confirm with the school, but if she’s graduating in Spring 2017 she probably does not need to complete her 2017-18 FAFSA. The 2017-18 FAFSA is for students going to school between July 1, 2017–June 30, 2018.

    • Your child can complete a FAFSA during their senior year of high school. The 2020-21 FAFSA will not be available until October 1, 2019.

    • No. The PLUS Loan application and the FAFSA are separate forms. The PLUS application process will not change and it does not ask about taxes. The student going to college (the child of the parent requesting the loan or the graduate/professional student) has to submit a FAFSA before beginning the PLUS loan application process. So if you’re completing the 2017-18 FAFSA, that will use 2015 tax information. The PLUS application will ask for information about the borrower and it will perform a credit check. More details on PLUS: https://blog.ed.gov/2016/08/apply-plus-loan/

  21. My husband has been working overseas for the last 2 years and will continue for another year. Due to the complexities of paying taxes in two countries, our 2015 returns will not be filed until late January of 2017. I carried over 2014 numbers when fling in 2016.
    Will I need to wait until February to file or carry over 2014 information for the third time?

  22. Hello I’ve always had this problem I’m under 24 (21years old) I’m considered a dependent student but I haven’t lived with my parents since I was 18. My parents don’t even live in this country how am i suppose to report their information if they didn’t file taxes?

    • Sorry, not living with parents does not make you an independent student. These FAFSA dependency guidelines are set by Congress. If your parents filed (or will file) a foreign tax return, use the information from the foreign tax return to complete your FAFSA. Convert all monetary units to U.S. dollars using the published exchange rate in effect for the date nearest to the date you complete the FAFSA.

  23. Avoid the FAFSA altogether. Student Loans have become ED’s way to enslave you in debt. Work your way through school, avoid debt, you’ll be so much better off.

    • Student loans aren’t the ONLY financial avenue that FAFSA opens up to you — many of which have nothing to do with going into debt.

  24. The school is asking for my spouse’s tax return transcript. My wife is foreign and has never lived, visited, or worked in the United States. We were married in September of 2015, abroad, and I didn’t file married because she doesn’t have and is not eligible for a social security number; which is a requirement for filing. I also live abroad which is were I am attending school. I listed my wife and my step-children on my FAFSA application, because they are my dependents, but they are not US citizens or residents of the United States.

    • First, we need to clear up some things. If you are legally married to someone, you should say you are married on your FAFSA. Your wife will be counted in your “household” when you get to that question. Your wife does not need a Social Security number in order for you to complete your FAFSA. Only you (the person going to college) is required to have an SSN. Read this about your spouse’s income for 2015.

      • My wife is included on my FAFSA. The issue is, the school is asking for a copy of her tax transcript, which she doesn’t have. When I filed my 2015 tax return I filed ‘Head of Household’ because I was unable to file married due to the social security number requirement.

        • What did the school say when you told them you are unable to provide her transcripts because she never filed US taxes? While you were completing your FAFSA, did you include her earnings when it asked about income and assets?

          • No, I didn’t include her income when completing the FAFSA. I haven’t been able to get an answer back from the school in-reference to her never filing US taxes.

          • Hi Nick..I work in financial aid so hoping to answer your question. Actually your we does NOT need a SSN to he included on a tax return….she can file with a tax id#. So if she works her income needs included on the FAFSA…even if the income is from overseas. Also…you need to check with a tax preparer about filing head of household while married…this will cause conflicting info the financial aid office will have to resolve before they can produce a final award letter.

    • No. The FAFSA will only ask for 2015 tax information and you will not have the option to update it after filing 2016 taxes.

  25. What happens to students who just received Independent status this year (under 23 in2015, 23+ now).

  26. Can you explain the sequence of the DRT when you have changes from your 2015 taxes such as now being married during 2016. With a change, such as now being married cause the DRT flag within the FAFSA not to be displayed. Does this mean we are moving back to paper verification for changes such as this? Also will contacting one school about change in financial conditions change my entire FAFSA for all schools on my list.

    • The FAFSA asks for marital status as of the day you fill it out. So if you’re married now but weren’t in 2015 (and therefore didn’t file taxes as married), you’ll need to add your spouse’s income to your FAFSA. The option to use the IRS DRT will appear if you’re eligible.

  27. Iam new to this FAFSA app. process.
    Why is both parents income added up when your student applies ?
    what if the parent w. the higher income is not even involved with the student…? It does not seem just and fair.
    If you are divorced, Is it which parent the student is living with when not in school that s on the application or both parents always ?
    Thanks !

    • If you are divorced, you need to provide info for the parent the student lived with last. However, if you are remarried you will need to provide both you and new husbands info.

    • Dependent students must report their parents’ information, as well as their own, on the FAFSA if they want to be eligible for any federal student aid. You cannot exclude one parent simply because their income is higher because you feel it’ll benefit you in some way. If the parents are divorced or separated, how you fill out the FAFSA depends on whether your parents live together or not. Read this for more details.

  28. This is a senseless change. My income in 2016 will be significantly less than I made last year. Am I still going to pay my child’s full tuition based on last year’s income calculation? Why do I have to go through the trouble to explain to school’s FinAid office? The government is just not helping middle class families.

    • Please contact your childs school about a ‘special condition’ process. They can make changes to the app with documentation. Unfortunately, the new changes affect those of you in this circumstance.

    • Strange your comment gets no reply (sarcasm). I am in the same boat. We have made much less this year. I guess it will benefit is two years from now?

    • One reason for this change: In the past, many people assumed that you should wait until you file taxes in the spring before completing your FAFSA. This resulted in many people missing out on possible aid they could’ve been eligible for if they did not miss the deadline. For instance, some state and college aid have a limited pool of funds which is distributed on a first come, first served basis. Those that filed as soon as possible after January 1 (this year, it will be October 1) had the best chance of getting this aid. Those who waited until they filed taxes might’ve missed out. Hope that clears things up.

      So even though we’re asking for 2015 taxes (again) on the 2017-18 FAFSA, that does not necessarily mean you will get the exact same aid offer as last year. There are many other factors to consider such as year in school, enrollment status, and the school’s cost of attendance.

      Has your child looked into scholarships?

      • My son is attending an Ivy league school. A year ago when he applied, we were well aware there is no merit based scholarship offered to applicants. And I thought I understood that I need to pay “partial” cost to attend. I am fine with that. The school web site advertises that most students pay public universities equivalent tuition to attend. I did not realize after filling out the FAFSA and CSS, I needed to pay the full amount of cost to attend. That’s brutal for a middle class family with only a 1372 sq-foot house and 2 Hondas in silicon valley. My personal particular situation was that I was laid off, and I received a layoff package, that bumped up my income. I don’t have the extra package this year, my income is going to be a lot lower than last years. Why does FAFSA ask me to use a prior year’s income information?

        • Using older tax information is something new we’re implementing this year. It eliminates the need for people to use estimates then go back and update their FAFSA after filing taxes (which could sometimes lead to aid delays and missing deadlines). You can talk to the financial aid office at the school and explain your situation. They are usually able to help if there are significant changes that cannot be reported on the FAFSA.

          • My financial aid office won’t address my significant income change until next spring – this is ridiculous

          • Going through the school doesn’t work that easy . I had to do it this year after losing my job in 2015. Tons of justification, wait, wait, wait only to have things overridden by the state. Screwed again for another year. They should have incorporated change of income status in the application. So frustrating………

          • A lot of things happen within a year. I know specifically that the Texas Equalization Grant is based on income. We received a bonus in 2015 the made my son ineligible for that grant this year. But we did not receive that bonus this year. How will my son’s school be able to help him receive that grant for the ’17-’18 year when the grant is based on income and must be proven to the state?

          • If your financial or family circumstances have changed, submit the FAFSA using 2015 information and then contact the college’s financial aid office to ask for a “professional judgment” review.

      • Your son should consider transferring to a less expensive school. Unless the school provides its own private aid to make up for your drastic income change, it’s a reality that many students have to face. Not every student needs to attend an Ivy league school. It won’t give them an edge. I have known many people who went to public schools or even public Ivy league schools who are way ahead of the game because they graduate with very little debt and get offered the same jobs as those from Ivy league schools. I also work for a Fortune 500 search engine company that does not view candidates from Ivy league schools any different than those who have graduated from other schools. If anything, we tend to reject more resumes from the Ivy league schools. We tend to hire those who were capable of doing so much during their college years with so little. That kind of resume shows creativity, innovation, and initiative.

      • Tax filing time has nothing to do with these FAFSA changes. I work for the Federal Student Aid Information Center. The changes are being made to coincide with the Federal Business Fiscal Year which is from Oct 1 to Sept 30. That is where the Federal funding for schools come from.

  29. What about verification? If my student was pulled for verification do this year, can I assume this will happen again if I’m using the sam information?

  30. If the parents are divorced and have been since 2008 do both parents fill out the fafsa forms? My daughter will be attending college the fall of 2017.

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