A change is in the air! It’s time for falling leaves, new school supplies, pumpkin spice lattes, and… FAFSA?
That’s right! The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is changing this year. Now you no longer have to wait until January 1 to complete next year’s application (sorry if I’ve ruined your New Year’s Day plans)! Starting October 1, you will be able to complete your FAFSA application for next school year (that’s fall 2017–spring 2018).
And not only can you now do the FAFSA sooner, but it should be easier to do as well.
In the past, the FAFSA has required information about your income from the previous tax year. For example, if you complete the FAFSA for the current school year (fall 2016–spring 2017) you would have needed your income and tax information from 2015. The new FAFSA will require tax information from two years prior. So when you fill out your 2017-2018 FAFSA (on October 1, of course) you will use your income and tax information from two years ago… as it happens, from 2015. The 2017-2018 FAFSA is the only FAFSA that will use the same income information as the prior year’s FAFSA.
Why is this so great? Because hopefully by now, especially if you have already done a 2016-2017 FAFSA, you already have all the 2015 income and tax information you need to complete the 2017-2018 FAFSA. In the past, the new FAFSA became available on January 1, but most applicants weren’t able to finalize the process until they completed their tax returns, generally at least a month or two later. So not only can you start the FAFSA earlier, but you will be much more likely to have all the information needed to complete it in much less time than previously.
Parkland’s Office of Financial Aid and Veteran Services would like to encourage all students to fill out the FAFSAs as early as possible. There are a number of great reasons to do so:
- Getting your paperwork done early means you’re in less of a rush to complete everything when school is starting and deadlines are looming. Save yourself the stress!
- Get a head start on finding out what you qualify for. When you complete a FAFSA, the application provides an estimate of what types and amounts of awards you may be eligible to receive. This can help you plan in advance how to afford college.
- Filling out a FAFSA early may qualify you for more financial aid funds. Some financial aid programs, such as Federal Work Study and the Illinois MAP grant, can only be awarded to a portion of the students who are eligible. The students who submit their FAFSAs to Parkland the earliest are more likely to receive these awards.
So take a break from enjoying the changing weather and the thrill of a new semester, and set a reminder to complete your FAFSA on (or as close as possible to) October 1.
Complete the FAFSA online here: https://fafsa.ed.gov/
Questions? Contact Parkland’s Office of Financial Aid and Veteran Services at 217/351-2222 or visit our webpage.
[Julia Hawthorne is an advisor with Financial Aid and Veteran Services at Parkland College.]