3 Types of FAFSA Deadlines You Should Pay Attention To

fafsa-deadlines

Ah, deadlines. The sworn enemy of students across the nation. When you’re busy with classes, extracurricular activities, and a social life in whatever time you’ve got left, it’s easy to lose track and let due dates start whooshing by. All of a sudden, your U.S. history paper is due at midnight, and you still don’t know Madison from a minuteman. We get it.

Nevertheless, we’re here to point out a few critical deadlines that you really shouldn’t miss: those to do with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). By submitting your FAFSA late, you might be forfeiting big money that can help you pay for college. Luckily for you, you’ve got just three types of deadlines to stay on top of. Now if only your Founding Father flashcards were that simple.

Here are those three deadlines:


1. The College Deadline

The first type of deadline comes from colleges themselves, and—spoiler alert—it’s typically pretty early. These deadlines vary from school to school, but they usually come well before the academic year starts. If you’re applying to multiple colleges, be sure to look up each school’s FAFSA deadline and apply by the earliest one.

Many of these FAFSA due dates are priority deadlines. This means that you need to get your FAFSA in by that date to be considered for the most money. Many colleges have this date clearly marked on their financial aid pages. If you can’t find it, you can always call your school’s financial aid office.

If you’re worried about gathering information to complete the FAFSA in time to meet this deadline, don’t be. Beginning with the 2017-18 FAFSA, you’ll be able to apply as early as October 1 (instead of January 1 as you may have done in the past). This earlier submission date will give you more time to complete the FAFSA before college deadlines approach, which means more time to compare schools and more certainty. You’ll use earlier (2015) tax information, so there’s no longer a need to estimate and update later.

Didn’t think it could get any easier? The earlier launch date coincides with many college application deadlines, so go ahead and apply for schools and for federal aid at the same time. If you haven’t figured out where you’re applying yet, don’t worry! You can still submit the FAFSA now. Just add any school you’re considering, even if you’re not sure whether you’ll apply or be accepted. You can always add or remove schools later.


2. The State Deadline

The second deadline is determined by your home state. Check your state’s deadline here. Some states have suggested deadlines to make sure you get priority consideration for college money, and some just want you to get the FAFSA in as soon as you can. Several states that offer first come, first served financial aid will be changing their deadlines from “as soon as possible after January 1” to “as soon as possible after October 1” to match the application’s earlier launch. If your state’s deadline is “As soon as possible after October 1, 2016,” you should get your FAFSA submitted ASAP. Many of these states award financial aid funds only until they run out, so the sooner you apply, the better your chances.


3. The Federal Deadline

This last deadline comes from us, the Department of Education, aka the FAFSA folks. This one is pretty low-pressure. Our only time constraint is that each year’s FAFSA becomes unavailable on June 30 at the end of the academic year it applies to.

That means that the 2017–18 FAFSA (which launched on Oct. 1, 2016) will disappear from fafsa.gov on June 30, 2018, because that’s the end of the 2017–18 school year. That’s right; you can technically go through your entire year at college before accessing the FAFSA. However, a few federal student aid programs have limited funds, so be sure to apply as soon as you can. Also, as we said, earlier deadlines from states and colleges make waiting a bad idea.


Why so many deadlines?

All these entities award their financial aid money differently and at different times. What they all have in common, though, is that they use the FAFSA to assess eligibility for their aid programs. So when a college wants to get its aid squared away before the academic year starts, it needs your FAFSA to make that happen. If you want in on that college money, you need to help the college out by getting your information in by its deadline. Same goes for state aid programs. Additionally, many outside scholarship programs need to see your FAFSA info before they will consider your application. If you’re applying for scholarships, you need to stay on top of those deadlines, too.Check FAFSA Deadlines button

What happens if I miss the deadlines?

Don’t miss the deadlines. Plan to get your FAFSA in by the earliest of all the deadlines for your best crack at college money. By missing deadlines, you take yourself out of the running for money you might otherwise get. Some states and colleges continue awarding aid to FAFSA latecomers, but your chances get much slimmer, and the payout is often less if you do get aid. It’s just better not to miss the deadlines.

If you miss the end-of-June federal deadline, you’re no longer eligible to submit that year’s FAFSA. Did we mention not to miss the deadlines?

Across the board, the motto really is “the sooner the better.” So put off the procrastinating until tomorrow. Apply by the earliest deadline. Get your FAFSA done today!


Courtney Gallagher is a senior studying English at Westminster College in Missouri. She is an intern for the Content Development team in the office of Federal Student Aid at the U.S. Department of Education.

Drew Goins is a former intern with the U.S. Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid. Likes: politics, language, good puns. Dislikes: mainly kale.

14 Comments

  1. My daughter is likely transferring to another college next year, but she is applying to several and of course will no know anything for awhile. When we submit our FAFSA, should we indicate all the schools she is applying to in addition to the one where she currently is (in case she stays there?).

    • It’s OK to complete your FAFSA before turning in college applications. On the FAFSA, add every school you’re considering, even if you haven’t applied or been accepted yet. If you’re on the fence about a particular school, add it anyway. Doing so will hold your place in line for financial aid in case you end up applying for that school. You can also add or remove schools to your FAFSA later. https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa/next-steps/correct-update#change-schools

  2. I stated a school they said my financial aide went through. Then apparently I was in default and kept getting emails from financial aide, so I asked the school and they kept telling me it was okay. Then 4 in half months went by and they said it was in default and that in order to keep going I would have to pay 1000 a month which I didnt have. I did a section 4 or what ever its called but the school called me last week and said I could come in and fill out now for financial aide to help pay for may through aug. Its now October is that legal, it just seems off. I made a complaint originally with Mo department of education but no one ever reached back out to me.

    • Are you in default because you did not repay federal student loans you owe? Read this about loan default: https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/repay-loans/default

      Your school does not handle repaying federal student loans, you have to send payments to your loan servicer. If you are in default right now, you will be ineligible to receive more financial aid from your school.

  3. Grandson lives with my husband and I. We are both retired. We receive no support for him. Had him last yr , next yr and this yr. we don,t have any income tax as we have a fixed income. How will this effect him ?

  4. FAFSA is a joke! Did it last year and NEVER heard back from them. I’m thinking its just another way for the Government to collect your very personal information.

    • If you get accepted into a college, the school sends you an award letter that lists federal financial aid you are eligible to receive. They cannot create this award letter for you unless you submit your FAFSA. Your school uses your FAFSA information to calculate your aid. If you don’t submit your FAFSA, you won’t get any federal aid. https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa/next-steps/how-calculated

  5. My family has had a very dignificant change in our financial situation this year. Our 2016 income is going to be approx. half of what it was in 2015. I am afraid filling out the FAFSA using 2015 will not give the true picture of mu daughter’s financial need. Any help/information regarding this would be greatly appreciated.

    • 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 job status in 2016) that cannot be reported on the FAFSA.

      • Us too! We already had that situation for the 2015 filing where we had to basically jump through hoops for the professional judgement for assistance this year and knew that 2016 would be much easier. Why can’t we use our 2016 information?

        • You are required to use 2015 tax information. You will not have the option to input 2016 financial info on the 2017-18 FAFSA.

          Here’s one reason for the 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 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.

  6. I filled out my 2016-2017 and my 2017-2018 FAFSA and my Stafford loan eligibility dropped like $11,000, why did that happen?

    • It could be due to a number of factors. Your school calculates your and and the factors used to calculate may change each year: https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa/next-steps/how-calculated. Your eligibility depends on your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), your year in school, your enrollment status, and the cost of attendance at the school you will be attending. If you have questions about why your loan amount changed, contact your school’s financial aid office.

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