By Helen Zeidman
Changes to the FAFSA, particularly the early release date, will mean easier filing and quicker feedback for students applying to college this year.
Starting this year, the FAFSA form is available on Oct. 1. Parents and their children are able to get a head start on filing the tax information and financial detail, in comparison to the previous Jan. 1 release of the form.
“Your parents can go in the FAFSA and use taxes from 2015,” Mrs. Scott, a guidance counselor, said. “There used to be a lag time, but with the prior-prior systems the taxes are more accurate.”
This means that instead of using tax information from 2016, applicants will be able to use already available data from 2015. For example, students who are applying for loans for the 2017-2018 school year can start filling out the FAFSA now with tax information from 2015. Previously, the FAFSA was not available to fill out until Jan. 1 when most parents did not have their previous year’s tax information finalized.
These changes might play a big role in the college application process. First of all, promise of more time will ensure more precise and efficient filing.
Now, parents will not have to estimate their tax information on the FAFSA due to the prior-prior model. Using the tax data from 2015 ensures accuracy and precision for the application.
Also, students will be able to complete the FAFSA form at the same time they are applying to colleges. The reduced time gap for the FAFSA means that students will receive their financial aid information around the same time they will receive college acceptances.
In order to accommodate the changes to the FAFSA, colleges may have to make some changes to the admission process. For example, colleges will be giving out financial aid packages months earlier than in previous years.
“When I talked to people in a college setting, there was nervousness,” Scott said. “I do believe they will have to adjust their processes.”
In the light of the new changes, Scott stressed that one of the most important things for students to do is keep track of deadlines.
“I would love to see my students take advantage of this time,” she said. “The worst thing a student can do is miss a deadline for aid.”
It is not too late to get a head start on filing the FAFSA. The application is available for free online here.