October is officially the beginning of FAFSA season.
This year, the FAFSA applications will be available three months earlier than in previous years, on October 1. There are a few things that students should know going into FAFSA season so they can best take full advantage of the earlier deadline.
Though we don’t know yet whether this deadline will help more students take advantage of the financial assistance offered through FAFSA, it does take off some of the pressure, says Sheryl Mihopulos, assistant vice president of Student Financial Services & Financial Aid Compliance at Adelphi University.
“It does give student more time and less pressure to meet most state and school financial deadlines and more time to compare aid offers,” she says. “The earlier tax information from a completed tax year should help students more easily complete the FAFSA.”
The new FAFSA also includes some other changes, including the need to use prior-prior year income information, meaning students applying this year will be including information from 2015. Luckily, there is a tool built in that can help.
“There is the opportunity for most applicants to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT), which streamlines the income questions on the FAFSA,” says Mihopulos. “Some students will still have difficulties filing the FAFSA easily because of changes which happen in the family out of their control like separations, divorce, death, sickness or remarriage of parents.”
Those students do, however, have options.
“Students have always been able to put appeals in writing to their schools to alert them to any changes in circumstances in a process known as Professional Judgment,” she says.
Overall, the changes give families more time to plan, allow the applications to have more accurate tax and income information, and should lessen the anxiety.
“Although we do not yet know how the FAFSA changes will affect schools in 2017-18 we believe there will be benefits in alignment with the admissions applications, less confusion about tax information, and more time to make an informed decision about affordability.”
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