If you’re thinking about applying to college this year, listen up—you’ll want to know about this.
Before you crank out those college apps, one of the most important applications every college-bound person should fill out is the FAFSA® (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). What’s even more important than filing the FAFSA® is filing it on time. Punctuality is key with the FAFSA®. With new date changes for the 2024-2025 academic year, here are some things you should know about submitting the FAFSA® and doing it on time.
What’s the FAFSA®?
If you’re wondering what the FAFSA® even is, I’ll tell you: it’s your ticket to getting federal financial aid—that means grants, scholarships, and federal student loans. You’ll submit a form that will determine what kinds of financial aid you’re eligible for and how much. It’s important to submit it because you’ll never know what you can get if you don’t apply!
What’s new with the FAFSA®
Typically, the application opens on October 1 every year. However, this year comes with a few changes to the FAFSA®. There are two congressional acts that have made it shorter and simpler for students: the FAFSA® Simplification Act and the Fostering Undergraduate Talent by Unlocking Resources for Education (FUTURE) Act. These acts have also updated some naming conventions, adjusted formulas to calculate student aid, and made the financial info transfer way easier.
A new application needed to be created to accommodate these shifts, so the U.S. Department of Education has pushed the opening date for the 2024-2025 FAFSA® from October 1st to “December 2023.” They have also confirmed that the opening date for the FAFSA® in subsequent years will go back to October 1st. There isn’t an official opening date yet, but keep an eye out for the official Federal Student Aid site for updates.
When to submit the FAFSA®
We’ve covered when the FAFSA® opens, but what about when it closes? Although the opening date for the 2024-2025 application is new this year, the closing date hasn’t changed: the FAFSA® will close on June 30th, 2025. But don’t delay—you should apply as soon as you can.
Federal financial aid is often first-come, first-served, so you’ll want to be early to get as much aid as possible. The online FAFSA® will take 3-5 days to process, and the paper form takes 7-10 daysfootnote 1. Make sure you apply with enough time for your FAFSA® to finish processing (but try to apply sooner than that!).
What happens if you miss FAFSA® deadlines
The June 30th deadline isn’t the only one you should be aware of. There are three types of deadlines to keep in mind: the college deadline, the state deadline, and the federal deadline.
- College deadlines. Some colleges have their own priority dates for submitting your FAFSA®. Hitting their deadlines gives you a better chance of getting their maximum federal financial aid. If you need help figuring out when a certain school’s FAFSA® deadline is, call their financial aid office or visit their financial aid website.
- State deadlines. States may have their own deadlines for things like grants or state-specific loans and scholarships. Their deadlines may be hard or more flexible, but applying as close to the opening date can ensure that you’ll be considered early for financial aid.
- Federal deadline. This is that June 30th deadline, brought to you by the U.S. Department of Education. It’s a hard deadline—after midnight Central time (CT) on June 30th, the FAFSA® will become unavailable on the Student Aid website and you will not be able to apply for any federal financial aid.
If you miss the federal deadline, you’re out of luck for federal aid—but not all hope is lost. For college and state deadlines, there may be some wiggle room for you to find some financial aidfootnote 2. Contact your school’s financial aid office and plead your case. They may not be able to help you, but they may be able to point you in the direction of other options to help you pay for school, like private scholarships and private student loans. You can also contact your state’s education department to see what they can do for you.
The FAFSA® can get really confusing, so it’s super important to ask for help if you need it. Financial aid counselors, your family members, and even your peers can be great resources to turn to when going through the process. Some other official resources to utilize include:
To make a long story short—stay on top of the FAFSA®. Save yourself the unnecessary stress and apply as early as you can to get as much federal financial aid as possible. You don’t want to miss those deadlines. Keep an eye on your calendar, and be ready to submit your FAFSA® in December.