Early FAFSA & Applying for Financial Aid

FAFSA opens October 1The first step in applying for financial aid is always to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) online at fafsa.ed.gov. Thanks to some major changes you can complete the 2017-18 FAFSA as early as October 1—three months earlier than before. You might be thinking, ‘that’s great, but there’s no way anyone has taxes filed yet so no one could possibly do the FAFSA that early’. Not so.

In addition to the early FAFSA open date, you will be asked to report income & tax information from two years ago. So for the 2017-18 FAFSA, you will use 2015 tax information. This means you don’t need to wait around until taxes are filed or use estimates on the FAFSA. You can complete the FAFSA right away when it opens!

These changes are new to us too, so stay in touch with the financial aid office by visiting our website. We’ve posted important milestone dates and will continue to update our website to keep you informed!

It’s super important to complete the FAFSA as soon as possible. Why? Certain types of financial aid like grants and work-study are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. It’s in your best interest to complete the FAFSA right away so you’ll be considered for the maximum amount of financial aid possible. Our office will also send you an estimate of your aid, giving you more time to plan your finances for the year ahead.

As a financial aid counselor, I hear lots of questions about the FAFSA. Here are some tips for students and parents that I’ve found most helpful:

  • Both you and your parent each need to create your own FSA ID. Your FSA ID serves as your electronic signature and your FAFSA is not complete without it – and you can’t share an ID!
  • Use the built-in IRS Data Retrieval Tool on the FAFSA if you’re eligible. It will speed up your application by automatically pulling your tax info into the FAFSA for you.
  • There’s no need to go back and update the FAFSA with 2016 info later. You’re required to use 2015 tax information on the 2017-18 FAFSA.
  • Complete the FAFSA before February 15 to be considered for the most financial aid.
  • If your family’s income has changed substantially since 2015, or if your parent’s marital status changed, submit the FAFSA with 2015 info and contact the Office of Financial Aid. They will ask you to complete a form to review the changes.

Most students qualify for some kind of aid. And yes, loans count as financial aid. Completing the FAFSA won’t cost you anything (it’s the FREE Application for Federal Student Aid after all!) so it doesn’t hurt to apply and see what you can get. If you think you won’t qualify for aid, there’s really only one way to find out.

 

Mari Foisy

Mari Foisy
Counselor
Office of Financial Aid
mari.foisy@colorado.edu