As a student, you’re no stranger to deadlines. Whether it’s turning in a paper or applying to colleges, you always have a deadline looming over your head.
As it turns out, the application for financial aid is no different. But while other assignments have one deadline, the FAFSA actually has three.
This might sound confusing, but at least you have a strong incentive for submitting it on time: The earlier you apply, the more money you could get for college.
When is FAFSA due?
Here are the three FAFSA deadlines you need to know about to qualify for financial aid.
1. The federal FAFSA due date
Since the Department of Education offers the FAFSA, it also sets a deadline for it. But this deadline is a long one — you’ll have access to the FAFSA for over a year and a half.
The FAFSA for the 2018-2019 school year, for instance, became available on Oct. 1, 2017. It will remain open until June 30, 2019. Plus, you can make corrections or updates until midnight on Sept. 14, 2019.
Most students file the FAFSA much closer to the date it opens than the date it closes. The main reason to file the FAFSA later in the school year would be if you had a major change in your financial circumstances.
“Students can file the FAFSA until the end of the academic year and still get some aid,” said financial aid expert Mark Kantrowitz. “This most often happens when a wealthy student has a change in family financial circumstances (e.g., death of a parent) that significantly affects their ability to pay for college.”
Unless you have a major change in your financial circumstances, you probably don’t need to worry about the federal FAFSA deadline. But you do need to consider state and college FAFSA deadlines, both of which come up a lot sooner.
2. The FAFSA deadlines are different for colleges
Colleges rely on the FAFSA to award financial aid. If you get into a school, you’ll likely see your financial aid package at the same time as your acceptance letter. So for many schools, you’ll need to submit the FAFSA in time for colleges to review your application and calculate your financial aid.
Each college sets its own deadline for the FAFSA. Note that a few schools also require the CSS Profile, another document that assesses your financial need. Head to the financial aid website of each college on your list to find its FAFSA deadlines.
Tufts University, for example, sets an early decision (ED) FAFSA due date of Nov. 15, two weeks after its ED applications are due. If you’re applying by Tufts’ regular decision deadline of Jan. 1, you’ll need to submit the FAFSA by Feb. 1.
At Tufts, as with some other colleges, your FAFSA deadline falls close to your college application deadline. But you might want to file the FAFSA months earlier to qualify for the most amount of financial aid from your state.
3. Your state has a FAFSA due date, too
Finally, each state also might set its own FAFSA deadline for incoming college students. States also have financial aid programs, especially for residents attending in-state public colleges. Connecticut’s FAFSA deadline for the 2018-2019 school year, for example, is Feb. 15, 2018.
To qualify for state financial aid, you need to file the FAFSA before the state deadline. In fact, the earlier you can submit your financial aid application the better, since some aid is given out on a first-come, first-served basis.
“Students should file the FAFSA as soon as possible on or after Oct. 1,” said Kantrowitz. “Students who file the FAFSA within the first three months (October, November, and December) tend to receive more than twice as much grant funding, on average, as students who file the FAFSA later.”
Illinois, Kentucky, and Oklahoma simply urge students to get the FAFSA in as soon as possible after Oct. 1. These states say awards are distributed until state financial aid funds are depleted.
Even though filling out the FAFSA can be time consuming, getting it done early is well worth the effort.
Submit the FAFSA as soon as possible
When is FAFSA due? There’s no one simple answer; you should be aware of all the FAFSA deadlines.
In most cases, you could wait until your college application deadlines to file the FAFSA. But then you’d have a ton of work on your plate, and you could miss out on some state aid.
Instead of waiting, try your best to file the FAFSA ASAP. You might start preparing your information in September so you can submit the application right after it opens on October 1.
Then, you won’t have to worry about all these FAFSA deadlines. Instead, you can focus your attention on applying to scholarships to get even more money for college.
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