You might have heard that the next FAFSA® will be available on October 1, 2016 as opposed to January 1, 2017. Well, it’s not a myth! If you (or your child) are planning to go to college during the 2017–18 academic year, you’ll want to make sure you have your facts straight. Check out the 7 myths about the FAFSA below.
I used 2015 tax information last year and didn’t get any aid, so it’s pointless to fill out the FAFSA again.
FACT: Not pointless! Your aid award could be different this year.
If you filed a 2016–17 FAFSA and received an award letter from your school, don’t assume that next year’s financial aid award will be the same. We ask you to complete the FAFSA annually because the factors used to calculate your aid could change each year. Things like your year in school, family income, and cost of attendance at your school are just a few factors used to determine your aid. You never know what aid you may get if you don’t complete the FAFSA, so don’t let last year’s award deter you from potential aid you may receive this year. Even if you did not get the Federal Pell Grant last year, you could still be eligible for other types of aid this year. This includes work-study and low-interest loans. Also, many states, schools, and private scholarships require you to submit the FAFSA to be considered for their aid as well.
I have to update my 2017–18 FAFSA with 2016 data after I file taxes.
FACT: Nope! You won’t need to update your FAFSA since you will be using your 2015 tax information.
Unlike the FAFSA in the past, you won’t have to use estimates or make updates after filing taxes. The 2017–18 FAFSA will ask for 2015 income and tax information which you should already have. Moving forward, the FAFSA will always ask for older tax information. For instance, the 2018–19 FAFSA will ask for 2016 income and tax info.
I can choose which year’s tax information I provide on the FAFSA.
FACT: No, you won’t be able to choose.
The FAFSA has always asked for one specific tax year to be reported. The 2017–18 FAFSA will ask for 2015 tax information, and that’s what you have to provide. You can’t choose to provide 2016 information if you feel it’ll benefit you in some way. If your income was lower in 2016 than in 2015, you still need to provide 2015 tax information, and then you can contact the financial aid office at the school you plan to attend and let them know your situation has changed. They have the ability to review your situation and consider making adjustments to your FAFSA.
I will get an award letter from my school earlier.
FACT: That’s really up to the school.
Some schools may send you an award letter earlier, while other schools may stick to the timeline they have used in the past. Remember that your school disburses your aid, not FAFSA, and each school has a different schedule. Contact your school for details.
I can re-use my 2016–17 FAFSA since my 2015 income and tax information will be the same.
FACT: No, you still need to submit a renewal or a new 2017–18 FAFSA.
You need to fill out the FAFSA each school year because your eligibility for financial aid can differ from year to year for various reasons, including your family’s financial situation and the number of your family members enrolled in college.
Doesn’t matter to me that the FAFSA is available in October, I still have plenty of time to file.
FACT: States, schools, and the federal government each have their own financial aid deadlines.
While the 2017–18 FAFSA deadline for federal aid is June 30, 2018, your state and school probably have earlier deadlines to receive their aid. For some states, their deadline won’t be a date, but it’ll be “as soon as possible after October 1” which means they have a limited pool of funds that may run out if you wait until the last minute to apply! If you want to maximize your potential aid, you should submit a FAFSA as early as possible after October 1.
I can’t file my FAFSA in October because I haven’t applied to any schools.
FACT: You can still file as long as you list at least one school on your FAFSA.
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.
Sandra Vuong is a Digital Engagement Strategist at Federal Student Aid.