For the first time since 2016, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) will undergo a change. Instead of its usual October release, students will have to wait until December to access and submit the redesigned application for the 2024–25 academic year. This application is crucial for those seeking financial aid, including federal student loans, grants, and work-study.
A 2023 study by Sallie Mae revealed that nearly 72% of college families were unaware of the 2023-24 FAFSA's October 1, 2022, release. This lack of awareness could lead to families missing out on essential aid for college expenses. MorraLee Keller from the National College Attainment Network (NCAN) emphasized the importance of being prepared for the new, simplified FAFSA release.
Key Steps to Prepare:
- Secure Your FSA ID: This ID is mandatory for completing the FAFSA online, tracking its status, and making updates. First-year students can create their FSA ID on the official website, while returning students can retrieve forgotten details.
- Be Aware of Deadlines: Each state and institution might have different financial aid deadlines, which could be earlier than the FAFSA's. It's essential to track these dates to ensure you don't miss out on aid.
- Estimate Your Aid: With the delay in FAFSA filing, students can use the Federal Student Aid Estimator to gauge the federal aid they might receive. The Education Department also offers a Pell Grant lookup table to check eligibility for the need-based Pell Grant.
Lastly, the new FAFSA aims to extend aid to more families. However, some might receive less aid due to changes in the need-based calculation. It's crucial to communicate with financial aid offices if you expect to receive less aid. Regardless of your financial situation, completing the FAFSA remains the best way to secure funding for college.