Each year, students and families file the FAFSA to help determine funding for their college careers. The 2023 FAFSA won’t open until December, which is later than normal. With the new updates, the deadline is already going to be stressful. Every year, many families fail to prep for FAFSA applications in the months ahead of the deadline. A failure to plan often means feeling rushed and anxious about the process. Even though school is letting out for the summer, we encourage you to use your time off to prep for the FAFSA application. Remember, this year’s application will be even more rushed than normal, too!
Here are some steps students and parents can take in the spring to get a head start on financial aid:
#1: Know your deadlines
One disappointing reason students miss out on financial aid is because they don’t know the deadlines they need to follow. Each college has its own financial aid application deadline you simply cannot miss, or you risk not even being considered for any financial help. You also need to closely monitor the FAFSA application deadline and state deadlines.
#2: Save your tax returns
In December, the FAFSA will come online for the 2024-2025 academic year. This means that anyone who is planning on attending college in the fall of 2024 must complete this application in order to be considered for financial aid. As always, this year’s FAFSA will rely on data from your 2022 federal income tax return in order to calculate your expected contributions. Make sure you’ve submitted your tax return on time so you can pull in the information quickly online.
#3: Document any changes in your family’s financial situation
Since this year’s FAFSA will rely on information from last year, it’s always possible things change. Life happens! There could be changes in your family’s financial situation. Although you must still utilize the most recent information on your FAFSA, document any changes and submit them directly to your colleges once the FAFSA has been completed. This is a very important step if there’s been major changes like divorce, job loss, or changes in your family.
#4: Start to research student loans now
Although you might not know exactly how much money you will need to borrow right now, you don’t want to make a bad decision about student loans in the future because you are pressed for time. Learn about the differences between federal and private student loans now. As offers arrive, you’ll feel more prepared. We have lots of resources on our blog outlining the differences for you!
#5: Begin to find scholarships
It’s never too early to look for scholarships! The more funding that you can find outside of student loans, the better! It’s less you have to pay back later. Scholarships can also be used for funding books, living costs, or other out-of-pocket expenses for your student.
While it feels really early to begin all of this prep work, being prepared is your best friend when it comes to college planning and applications. Preparing now means less stress in the fall and winter as everyone scrambles to complete the FAFSA. Now is the perfect time to research, read, and understand what all of these terms and numbers mean for your family’s financial future.
Who We Are
CFAA helps with the financial aid process, from completing the FAFSA and completing the CSS Profile to reviewing the SAR, responding to requests for verification, comparing financial aid offers and understanding student loan options. Schedule a CFAA new client free strategy session or a 15 Minute Power Chat to learn more about finding ways to pay for college. To get the latest financial aid information and college application to-do lists, look for my bi-weekly JustAskJodi emails and my monthly CFAA e-newsletter.