There’s a short answer and a long answer.
Let’s start with the short one: If you need financial aid for the 2018-19 school year, you have until June 30, 2019, to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. But you should file your FAFSA as close to Oct. 1, 2017 as possible to improve your chances of qualifying for the most grant, scholarship and work-study dollars. You can read everything you need to know about the application in NerdWallet’s FAFSA guide.
|Academic year||FAFSA open date||Federal FAFSA deadline|
|2017-18||Oct. 1, 2016||June 30, 2018|
|2018-19||Oct. 1, 2017||June 30, 2019|
|2019-20||Oct. 1, 2018||June 30, 2020|
Now for the long answer.
The federal government has usually given students until June 30 after the school year in which they need aid — for instance, June 30, 2019 for the 2018-19 school year — to file a FAFSA. But you have to submit the form much earlier to meet financial aid deadlines for your state and college and to get your aid dollars in time for the start of the school year. Federal work-study dollars and many state and institutional grants and scholarships are awarded to students who apply the earliest.
File your FAFSA as close to Oct. 1, 2017 as possible to improve your chances of qualifying for the most grant, scholarship and work-study aid.
The FAFSA didn’t used to open until January of the school year preceding the one for which you need aid. For instance, it opened January 1, 2016 for the 2016-17 school year. But last year, the Department of Education began opening the FAFSA on Oct. 1 of the year preceding the one in which you need aid. So, applications for the 2017-18 school year were available on Oct. 1, 2016. With this timeline shift, students have time to meet states’ and institutions’ earlier deadlines and weigh financial aid packages in their college decisions.
You only have to file the FAFSA once to be eligible for all three types of aid: federal, state and institutional aid. Here’s what you need to know about each.
State and institutional FAFSA deadlines
States and individual colleges set their own FAFSA deadlines that are typically much earlier than the federal one. You have to file your application by these deadlines to qualify for state and institutional grants and scholarships. If you’re attending an out-of-state school, you may not qualify for state aid — check with the state to see if you do. Find your state financial aid deadline on the Federal Student Aid website.
States and individual colleges set their own FAFSA deadlines that are typically much earlier than the federal one.
With the switch to an earlier FAFSA open date last year, the Department of Education asked colleges to keep their financial aid deadlines the same as in previous years. But some schools have already set earlier deadlines, says Holly Morrow, vice president of training and technical assistance at uAspire, a nonprofit focused on college affordability. For instance, some schools that previously had financial aid deadlines in February or March have moved their cutoff dates to December or January.
Additionally, a lot of state and institutional aid is given out on a first-come, first-served basis. With the FAFSA opening earlier, grant and scholarship dollars could run out faster, says Abigail Seldin, vice president of innovation and product management for the nonprofit Educational Credit Management Corp.
Federal FAFSA deadline
The federal deadline is your last chance to submit the FAFSA each year. If you still need financial aid for the 2017-18 school year, you can submit the form until June 30, 2018. Although work-study dollars and most state and institutional aid have already been awarded for 2017-18, there’s still time to qualify for federal grants and student loans. Even if you wait until June 30, you can receive these grants and loans retroactively to cover what you’ve already paid for the spring and fall semester. Or, depending on your school, you may be able to apply the funds to 2018 summer school.
Colleges’ financial aid deadlines often fall the earliest, so those deadlines are the most important to track. Look up the dates for all of the schools you’re applying to and write them down in one place — try using your phone’s calendar, a spreadsheet or a notebook dedicated to your college search.
While you’re at it, check if your state and the schools you’re applying to require other financial aid applications in addition to the FAFSA. Many do, and you need to submit all the required paperwork before the deadline to be considered for aid.
If you’re totally confused — and we don’t blame you if you are — just remember this date: Oct. 1, 2017. It’s not a deadline, but if you submit your FAFSA soon after that day, you’ll best cover all your bases.