The 2016-17 Free Application for Federal Financial Aid (FAFSA) became available January 1, signaling the start of the financial aid application process for enrollment periods beginning July 1 or later. But by when do you need to complete and file your 2016-17 FAFSA?
The answer: by your FAFSA priority deadline, which is the earliest FAFSA priority deadline for any of the schools you’re thinking about attending in 2016-17. And regardless of school deadlines, you also need to be mindful of your state’s FAFSA priority deadline. For example, if you’re a Texas resident interested in attending Texas schools, you should submit your FASFA before the State of Texas’ March 15 FAFSA priority deadline — even if all schools of interest to you have subsequent deadlines.
Why a priority deadline? FAFSA data are the key to proving eligibility for most of the best forms of financial aid — grants, need-based scholarships, the most inexpensive loans, and work-study jobs. But institutional funding for these programs is limited, and there’s never enough to adequately fund every eligible student. Money limits are also the norm in state grant programs, hence the state priority deadlines.
Submit your FAFSA before your priority deadline and the schools you list on it will get your data in time to assemble financial aid “packages” for you while there’s still money left for all the programs for which you’re eligible. You can still submit your FAFSA after your priority deadline, but it’s likely that your access to the best aid will be very limited because all or most those dollars will have already been awarded to other students.
So here’s what you need to do:
- Check the financial aid websites for the institutions to which you have or will apply for admission. Identify that school’s FAFSA priority deadline. Call its financial aid office if you can’t find this information!
- Use the first of your schools’ FAFSA priority deadlines, or your state’s FAFSA priority deadline, whichever is earliest, as your FAFSA priority deadline.
- If you haven’t already done so, go get your Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID so you can complete your FAFSA. Parents, this applies to you, too!
- Before your FAFSA priority deadline, complete and file your FAFSA following the instructions on fafsa.ed.gov. Be sure to list the Federal School Code for every college and university you’re thinking about attending before filing your FAFSA.
College Affordability Solutions offers various services including FAFSA completion assistance. Call (512) 366-5354 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.