The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) unlocks the door to valuable financial aid. But if you miss the FAFSA deadline, you could miss out on crucial money for college.
Here are the steps to take to see if you missed the deadline, and what to do if you find out you’re too late.
What if I missed the FAFSA deadline?
1. Submit the FAFSA as soon as you can
2. Reach out to your college financial aid administrator
3. Try contacting your state’s education agency
4. Apply for external scholarships and grants
5. Find a part-time job on or near campus
6. Consider applying for a private student loan
7. Check if your college offers an emergency loan
To qualify for federal, state or institutional aid, you’ll need to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). It opens on Oct. 1 every year and stays open until June 30. You can also make corrections through September.
Many states and colleges have earlier financial aid deadlines, however, such as March 1 in Maryland or May 15 in Florida. If you miss those deadlines, you might be out of luck and will have to wait until the following year for aid.
So try your best to submit the FAFSA as close to Oct. 1 as possible, and find out your college and state deadlines. Note that some colleges also require the CSS Profile, which is a supplemental financial aid form for non-federal grants and loans that has its own deadline.
If you missed your college financial aid deadline, contact your school’s financial aid office to see if there’s anything you can do. Even though you missed the FAFSA deadline, it’s worth checking to see if you can still get aid.
Some schools encourage students who missed the deadline to apply anyway. Yale University, for instance, notes that you’re still eligible for financial aid if you miss the deadline, and that your award won’t be reduced.
But not all colleges are so flexible, and they might not have any awards left to distribute after a certain date. So even if you get your information in after the deadline, there is no guarantee that your college will have any remaining aid for you.
If you missed your state deadline, submit the FAFSA as soon as you can and try reaching out to a state agency about other steps you can take. Residents in Massachusetts, for instance, could contact the state Department of Higher Education, and residents of California could reach out to the state Student Aid Commission.
But as with your college, your state might have already distributed all its aid to students who filed before the deadline. So while it’s worth a shot, again, there’s no guarantee you can get state aid if the deadline has already passed.
Even if you missed out on federal, state or institutional aid, you can keep applying for scholarships and grants from external organizations. Use scholarship search tools to find awards that match your experiences and interests.
You might also ask your school counselor about any local opportunities. By winning scholarship awards, you’ll have an easier time affording college and won’t have to borrow so much in loans.
Besides applying to scholarships, consider working a part-time job as a student. If you can balance a job with your studies, you could earn some money to cover living expenses.
Although you don’t want to get overwhelmed and fall behind on your studies, a part-time job could ease the financial pressure during your time in college.
Without the FAFSA, you can’t qualify for federal student loans. But you can still apply for private student loans to finance your degree.
Since private lenders have underwriting requirements for credit and income, you’ll likely need to apply with a cosigner, such as a parent.
Some private lenders offer competitive rates and flexible terms. But you won’t get the same protections as you would with a federal loan, such as income-driven repayment options.
Before borrowing a private student loan, make sure you understand the terms of your agreement. If you can find a low-interest private student loan, it could help you get through the semester, at least until you can file for financial aid the next year.
If you need money immediately, reach out to your financial aid office. The administrators might be able to offer an emergency loan, which you can use to cover expenses or tuition.
But just as with a private student loan, make sure you understand the terms of repayment and interest. You wouldn’t want to get saddled with burdensome debt that’s difficult to pay back.
Track down your financial aid deadlines for next year
If you miss the deadline for financial aid, there’s unfortunately not much you can do. While it’s worth checking with your college aid administrator or state agency about your situation, there’s no guarantee there will be any financial aid left.
But you can still submit the FAFSA throughout the year and potentially qualify for federal aid or student loans for the next school year. And you can look for alternative ways to pay for school, such as scholarships or private student loans.
Above all, make sure you don’t miss the deadlines for the following year. Write down all the financial aid deadlines and put them in a calendar or another reminder app on your phone so you know when the dates are approaching. By submitting the FAFSA and any other forms as soon as you can, you’ll put yourself in the best position to receive federal, state and institutional aid.