This Huge Change to the FAFSA Starts October 1

photo-1435527173128-983b87201f4dLast September President Obama made a significant change to the process of applying for financial aid that goes into effect October 1, 2016.

Students going to college in the 2017/2018 school year may now submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form as early as October 1, 2016.

No more waiting until after you get all your tax ducks in a row. The FAFSA form you submit on October 1 will use the income tax information from your 2015 return. Your 2016 tax information won’t be needed until October 1, 2017.

October 1 is the earliest date you can submit the FAFSA form, but it’s not the deadline. However, you will want get a jump on it as soon as possible. Here’s why:

Financial aid is often distributed on a first come, first served basis.

States and schools that previously requested your financial information as soon as possible after January 1 will now request your FAFSA as soon as possible after October 1. Although the deadline for submitting the FAFSA may not change, waiting until the last minute could significantly reduce the amount of financial aid you may receive.

According to some experts, students who apply for financial aid during the first 3 months of the “FAFSA season” receive twice as much financial aid as those who wait. The first 3 months used to be January, February and March. Now it’s going to be October, November and December.

If the FAFSA submission date is moved up, some schools may also move up other deadlines.

Every school is different. How they respond to the earlier FAFSA dates is anyone’s guess, but it’s not unreasonable to expect many of them to move up other deadlines as well. Don’t assume that last year’s March 31st deadlines are still March 31st. They may now be December 31st.

Every year families miss out on huge amounts of financial aid because they missed a key deadline. Don’t be one of them. Check with each school on your list for current deadlines that may affect you.

Not sure how to fill out the FAFSA form?

No problem. Free help is available. MN College Goal is a statewide volunteer program that provides free, one-on-one assistance to families who want help filling out the FAFSA form. For workshop dates and locations, click here.

If you prefer the do-it-yourself route, check out the Federal Student Aid website, Here you will find useful information on filling out the FAFSA form as well as other information to help you make the most of the financial aid system.

Pay Less for College

According to the MN Office of Higher Education, the average cost of attendance at a private 4-year college now exceeds $48,000 – per year. Even the University of MN is over $25,000 a year when you add in room, board and books. Some schools meet 100% of your financial need. Others focus their financial aid dollars on those students with the best academic merit.

The school your student chooses to attend is the biggest determinant of how much you will pay for college. How do you decide which schools are the best financial fit as well as academic fit for your student?

Before your student commits to a school, learn how the financial aid process works, discover which schools are most likely to offer you the best value for your dollar, and become a smarter consumer of a college education.

Starting October 4th I will be offering my free college planning workshop Pay Less for College at various high schools in the Twin Cities. If you are the parent of a college-bound high school student, and you want to pay less for college, plan to attend one of my workshops.