Few students, and even fewer parents, look forward to filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The form is a little long and cumbersome, and often, families must spend a significant amount of time pulling together the paperwork and financial documentation they’ll need to even begin working on the form.
But, procrastination can be deadly, when it comes to the FAFSA. After all, many sources of federal aid are provided on a first come, first served basis, so families that delay may find that there is no money left to give a child, even if the family is in dire need of assistance.
In general, it’s best to start working on the FAFSA in January, as this is the start of the financial year for the U.S. Department of Education. But there are some key deadlines that all students should follow carefully.
As mentioned, the U.S. Department of Education makes the FAFSA available on January 1. According to that governmental agency’s website, students must fill out the form by the last day in June in order to be eligible for federal aid. For example, students who wanted aid for the 2013-2014 school year would need to fill out a FAFSA between January 1 of 2013 and June 30 of 2014.
This is an incredibly broad deadline, as it seems to encompass an entire school year. This big gap exists for an important reason, however, as some students enter the educational system at different times. These students might skip fall classes, for example, and only walk through the doors of a school in the spring or summer. Leaving the deadlines open so wide allows the Department of Education to provide at least some assistance to students who may be following a less-than-traditional schedule.
While federal agencies might feel comfortable leaving the due date open wide, some schools place tight restrictions on the application process. These schools may want students to nail down their federal sources of help early so the schools can assist with their own grants, or school officials may hope to smooth out the workload for the financial aid office, which can be a frenetic place at the beginning of the school year.
Schools have a wide variety of deadlines, when it comes to a FAFSA, but the U.S. Department of Education has compiled a handy tool that can allow students to see when they’re required to complete their paperwork. Students can use this tool in order to ensure that they’re staying on track.
- Writing all pertinent dates on the family calendar
- Assigning specific tasks to individual members of the family (one person could obtain tax documents, for example, while another could create an online account for the family)
- Setting aside a set amount of time to work on the FAFSA each day, rather than trying to complete the whole thing in one sitting
- Asking for help from the Financial Aid Office if something is confusing, rather than trying to struggle through it alone
Our website may also help. We’ve compiled a significant amount of information about how the FAFSA works, as well as the pertinent information you’d need to know in order to fill out the form properly. Start browsing now.
- FAFSA Home
- Demystifying the FAFSA
- Exit Counseling
- Filling It Out
- Financial Stability
- How the FAFSA Challenged Us to Find Alternative Funding
- Independent or Dependent Student Status?
- Limited Space for College Listings
- Making Corrections
- Reality Check
- Revising: A Primer for Parents
- That Wasn't So Bad After All
- The Calculations Behind the Application
- To-Do Lists, Anxiety, and Preparing for College
- What Happens Next?
- Why Submit the FAFSA
- Your Gateway to Financial Aid