For seniors in high school and current college students, the deadline to submit your FAFSA is February 15, 2016. (FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid.) The challenge with submitting the FAFSA by February 15th is that most people have not yet completed and filed their Federal Income Tax. This often creates confusion. It causes many to delay filing their FAFSA application until their taxes are completed. The problem with delaying is aid that is offered by the schools and the Federal government (Pell Grants) is on a first come, first serve basis. So the trick most people don’t realize is, use the prior year’s tax return (in this case 2014 tax numbers) and submit the 2016 FAFSA application timely.
What Is the Change to the FAFSA 2016 Application?
FAFSA has now changed the due date for filing the 2016 FAFSA application. The new date is October 1, 2016. This enables filers to utilize their 2015 tax return figures when completing their 2016 FAFSA Application. It is important to note that the October 1 deadline applies to financial aid to be awarded for the school year that begins Fall of 2017. This is good news. Now, instead of filing a FAFSA application based on estimated income, and then filing a corrected/amended/updated application when actual numbers are available; applicants will only need to file their FAFSA Application once a year. This new date creates less administration for the applicant, the school, and the Department of Education. It is important to note that this new date also means that some people will be completing the FAFSA application twice in 2016. (The deadline for the 2016-2017 school year was in February of 2016. The date for the 2017-2018 school year is October 1, 2016.) This should only be the case for the 2016 year.
Common Mistakes in FAFSA Filings
Don’t Miss the Deadline!
Missing the deadline is the first and most common mistake people make when filing. Missing the FAFSA deadline can push your submission to the college or university by four to six weeks. What is the problem with filing late? Most schools grant the financial aid they have available based on timely submission. When the school gets your application four to six weeks late, they may have given away most of their budget by the time they receive your application. This could greatly reduce the amount of financial aid available to those who file late.
Double Check and Triple Check Your FAFSA Accuracy!
Data entry errors can also have a huge impact on financial aid awards. Having the wrong address or social security number can create delays. This will push your FAFSA filing to the school of your choice beyond the deadline and reduce your chances for the greatest amount of aid possible. Double and triple check your application before hitting the submit button.
An Important Mistake for High School Seniors Filing the 2016 FAFSA!
Listing only one school on the FAFSA can have adverse effects on the amount of financial aid awarded. Most students (and their parents) have the “dream school”. But listing only one school on the application removes any sense of competition for the school. When schools receive your FAFSA application they are also privy to how many other schools you requested receive your information. If they see that you listed no one else they know they have already got you. They don’t need to convince you attend their school. As a result many will engage in what is called “financial leveraging”. They can offer you the least amount of financial aid they feel they can and still have you attend their school. However, if they see that you are applying to more schools than just theirs, now they have to compete for your enrollment and attendance. This often results in a higher financial aid package for the student. We recommend that when filling the FAFSA, you list six to eight schools to receive the information. Make your dream school come to you.
Summary of FAFSA Application Process
In summary, file your FAFSA 2016 as early as possible. Double and triple check your submission to verify that there are no mistakes. Select multiple schools to receive your FAFSA 2016 information.