FAFSA Delays and Errors: Here’s What Students and Families Can Do

FAFSA glitches and processing errors — and subsequently delayed financial aid offers — are making it tough for students and families to make college decisions for next year.
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Written by Eliza Haverstock
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Edited by Cecilia Clark
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Errors, glitches and processing delays have plagued the redesigned Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which belatedly launched at the end of December.

About 30% of submitted FAFSAs — or roughly 2.1 million forms — are affected by data or processing errors, the Education Department said on April 9.

As a result, millions of students and families are still waiting on financial aid packages as the clock counts down toward the traditional May 1 college decision deadline. (Some schools have already pushed their deadline to May 15 or June 1, to accommodate for delayed aid offers.)

Despite the frustrations, experts urge students to submit the new FAFSA as soon as possible if they haven’t already. Some types of aid have priority deadlines or draw from a limited pool.

Skipping the FAFSA entirely will make you ineligible for financial aid, including federal loans, grants and some scholarships. As of March 29, FAFSA submissions from high school seniors are down about 27% from this time last year, according to the National College Attainment Network’s FAFSA tracker.

Here are the key FAFSA hiccups to know about, plus strategies to deal with them — so you can submit your form ASAP and get money to pay for college.

Processing issues delay financial aid offers

The Education Department must process submitted FAFSA forms before sending them to college financial aid offices, which will then use the processed FAFSAs to build financial aid packages for prospective and current students. However, data and processing errors by the Education Department is slowing down that process for millions, including:

  • Dependent students with assets, such as savings accounts, investments, businesses and farms. 

  • Families who claimed education tax credits, had an amended tax return in 2022 or manually entered their tax information. 

The department said it would reprocess all FAFSAs impacted by any of these processing issues and send the forms back to schools. Schools will receive reprocessed forms between mid-April and May 1. In some cases, this could result in a student’s Student Aid Index (SAI) changing. Because a lower SAI number generally results in a larger aid award, affected students may get smaller financial aid packages than expected.

​​Even if you’re not directly impacted, your financial aid offer could be delayed, as schools sort through which students’ FAFSAs are accurate and can be used to build financial aid packages immediately, and which students must wait for FAFSA reprocessing.

You can’t correct submitted FAFSAs yet

If you submitted your portion of the FAFSA but realized you made an error, you’ll have to wait until the week of April 15 to fix it, according to the latest government guidance. These errors can range from a mistyped Social Security number to a missing parent signature.

As many as 16% of FAFSAs will require corrections, the Education Department said on April 9.

As a result, families who need to correct their FAFSA may have to wait even longer on financial aid offers.

The department has moved back the 2024-25 corrections timeline several times already. In past years, students were able to correct their FAFSA within days of originally submitting the form.

Even if you make a correction later on, it won’t change the submission time stamp on your FAFSA, says Karen McCarthy, vice president of public policy and federal relations for the National Associations of Student Financial Aid Administrators. This could be important for students applying for financial aid that is first come, first served or that has an early application deadline.

Mixed-status families still face FAFSA glitches

Though the new FAFSA opened in December, a technical glitch prevented undocumented parents of U.S. citizen students from completing their portion of the FAFSA for months, leaving millions of students in limbo as they were unable to submit the form and apply for financial aid.

The Education Department shared a workaround in March, which allows contributors without Social Security numbers to complete their FAFSA sections. The workaround itself had issues; on April 4, the Education Department said it had fixed them.

But even after the April fixes, some impacted students, parents and college counselors continue to report glitches.

The latest FAFSA instructions for mixed-status families are available on StudentAid.gov.

Students and parents: Here’s what you can do

FAFSA delays and errors can be frustrating, but it’s still extremely important to submit the form. Otherwise, students won’t be able to qualify for federal student loans, grants, work-study and some scholarships. There’s no income limit to qualify for aid, and you might get more than you expect.

Here are some tips to help you navigate this year’s FAFSA:

  • Submit the FAFSA as soon as possible. Even with the major processing delay, your FAFSA will record a timestamp when you submit it. Since some types of financial aid have priority deadlines or are first-come, first-serve, submit the form soon to qualify for the most aid. 

  • Check your FAFSA processing status. Students can log into their StudentAid.gov account to see if and when your FAFSA was processed. If it has been processed, you can also check your SAI, which impacts your aid eligibility. Keep in mind that your SAI could change if it was affected by a FAFSA glitch. 

  • Confirm your college acceptance deadlines. Reach out to your potential schools to see if they’ve moved their college decision deadlines to accommodate for financial aid package delays. Many schools have already moved the typical May 1 decision deadline to May 15 or June 1.  

  • Apply for external scholarships. If you’re still waiting on financial aid packages, scholarship award money can give you a sense of security when it comes to paying for college next year. 

  • Ask for assistance. Free FAFSA help is available. Reach out to your high school’s college counselor or the financial aid offices at your school (or potential schools), search for college access nonprofits in your community or call the Federal Student Aid office’s helpline at 800-4-FED-AID. 

  • Follow Education Department updates. On April 1, the Education Department began posting detailed daily FAFSA updates, which you can access here. The department also has a new “FAFSA pro tips'' section of its website designed to help students and families. 

And here’s the bright spot: the new FAFSA is easier and quicker to complete for many students. Some will need to answer only 18 questions, down from 103 possible questions in previous years. With a new financial aid eligibility formula, at least 1.7 million additional students from low-income backgrounds are expected to qualify for the maximum Pell Grant award — $7,395 per year.

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