With spring semester flying by and summer quickly approaching, you have a dozen things on your mind. Where will you go on vacation? Who will you hang out with? Will you get a summer job? With so much to plan, the upcoming fall semester is probably the last thing you want on your mind.
But in reality, thinking about how to finance your next school year should be a top priority before spring semester ends. Don’t get so excited for summer break that you forget about one important thing: filing the FAFSA. If you haven’t checked this off your to-do list, it's time.
Here’s what you need to know about filing the FAFSA this year:
General Tips for Filing the FAFSA
- Apply as early as you can. Don’t put off filing the FAFSA simply because “you don’t want to” or because “you have plenty of time.” Filing early gives you the opportunity to qualify for more scholarships and grant money.
- Create a FSA ID, if you haven't already. Your FSA ID allows you to access the FAFSA and other financial and personal information. Be sure to create your ID at least a week before you plan to use it — in some cases, it can take up to three days before you have full access.
- The FAFSA is a FREE form. A valid website will never ask you to pay money to file this form. If you come across one that tries to charge you, this should send up a red flag. To be safe, file on a reliable website like FAFSA.gov.
- Make sure you have all of the required documents. The FAFSA asks for personal and financial information about yourself and more than likely, your parents’. Documents that you will need include your social security card, driver’s license number, and federal tax information.
- Be aware that there are three sets of deadlines to pay attention to when filing the FAFSA - state, school, and federal.
New Tips for the 2017-2018 FAFSA
- As of this year, the early submission date has been changed. Students will now be able to file the FAFSA as early as October 1, instead of the usual January 1 deadline. This earlier date provides more time for financial aid research and gives you increased opportunities to acquire additional aid.
- This year’s FAFSA will require income and tax information from 2015. This is important, because you will no longer need to rush to get your taxes done in order to file the FAFSA. Since tax and income information are required from the previous year, it will be easier when it comes to gathering the vital information you need.
- State and school financial aid deadlines may be different this year because of the federal deadline change. Be sure to double and triple check financial information regarding your state and your school so that you do not miss out on any updates. You can visit FAFSA.gov to find your state's financial deadlines, and contact your school’s financial office to find out theirs.
- This year’s FAFSA will be easier to file. Since the application window will open earlier and you will use last year’s tax information, you will not have to worry about rushing to get things done in order to file your FAFSA with the correct information.
FAFSA information changes often, so make sure you are well informed from year to year about the current deadlines, form information, and application requirements. It’s best to stay up-to-date with the Federal Student Aid website, FAFSA.gov, or speak with your school’s financial aid office regarding any questions or concerns you may have.
We know that figuring out how to finance your graduate degree can be a stressful process, but that’s why we’ve put together an eBook that outlines different options for
paying for your education.