FAFSA applications open three months earlier

This year, the opening submission date for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known as the FAFSA, has been shifted from January to October.

This new, earlier submission date is a permanent change. Students will now be able to submit their FAFSA in the future as early as Oct. 1 each year, according to the Federal Student Aid website. The new submission date will not affect the application deadline, which is June 30 of the following year. Students must submit their completed FAFSA by this date in order to be considered for financial aid.

The purpose of this date change was to give students more time to review their FAFSA application, said Thuan Do, a financial aid representative. Do said he hopes that students will now take the opportunity to more carefully review their applications.

“I think it was for the ease of people already having their taxes filed,” said Financial Aid Officer Janet Alvarado. The current FAFSA application is for the 2017-18 school year.

The FAFSA now requires a student’s tax information from the year prior to the year of the opening submission date. Even though the application will be for the 2017-18 school year, since the new submission date occurred before the start of 2017, students will be required to use their 2015 tax information. Students who are reapplying for financial aid and have already used their 2015 tax information for a prior FAFSA will be using that year’s tax information again.

Students sometimes have difficulties with obtaining their tax information from the prior year. With the date change, students will be accessing tax information from two years prior, which should already be readily available to them. Alvarado said that students will “hopefully not have to go through that delay.”

Alvarado also encourages students to make use of the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, which will automatically take any tax information that has been submitted to the IRS and insert it into the appropriate locations within the FAFSA.
Students can access the IRS Data Retrieval Tool by clicking the “Link to IRS” button in the finances section of the FAFSA if they are eligible to use the tool, according to the Federal Student Aid website.

If students want to get their tax transcripts online, they will need to use their email account, phone number, social security number and a personal credit card number, according to the IRS website.

Another benefit of the earlier date is that students can receive financial aid earlier, and thereby have more time to plan for the next school year, said counselor Anna Davtian. Students who receive financial aid before the next school year starts will have more time to purchase necessary items for their courses.

“A lot of students struggle with not having their textbooks and fall behind in their courses,” said Davtian. Receiving financial aid before the next school year provides students with more time to access resources they need to succeed in their courses.

Students should take advantage of this change in the date and apply as early as possible. The FAFSA works on a “first come, first serve” basis, said Do. The longer students wait to apply, the more likely they are to miss out on potential financial aid.

“Apply early,” said Alvarado. “The earlier [students] apply, the better.”