I’ve been talking up the importance of not only completing your FAFSA (that’s the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, in case you haven’t been paying attention!), but completing it early. Well, the first opportunity you had to fill out your FAFSA has come and gone: January 1st.
But no worries, you still have at least a month — and maybe a few months, depending on your school’s FAFSA deadline. It’s just that the earlier you turn in your FAFSA, the better your chances of getting financial aid. That’s because some schools divvy out their “in-house” funds on a first-come, first-serve basis.
This year the job of getting in your FAFSA will be a little less of a chore than in the past. (I can hear the sighs of relief from veteran FAFSA filers!) The application has dropped 22 questions and allows you to skip questions that don’t apply to your circumstances. It also prompts answers based on the data you have already provided and makes clear which sections are asking about your parents income — vs. your own.
Also new is the instant feedback. Immediately after you submit the FAFSA, you will receive a Student Aid Report, which indicates which federal grants you can expect to receive, as well as what student loas you are eligible for. In the past, filers had to wait at least three weeks for this information.
The newly streamlined FAFSA will also give you information about the schools you are applying to, including graduation and transfer rates, and a detailed break-down of costs and expected expenses associated with the school.
So, what are you waiting for? Go file your FAFSA!