It’s time to complete financial aid forms for college, and doing it sooner rather than later can increase chances for a better aid package.
The new Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as the Fafsa, will become available online on Jan. 1. The form is the starting point for students and families seeking federal aid, and is used by most states and colleges as part of the student aid process. The form collects financial and personal information about students, and their parents if they are dependents, to determine eligibility for scholarships, grants, work-study awards and loans. It must be completed every school year for students seeking aid.
Filing the Fafsa as soon as possible after Jan. 1 increases applicants’ chances of getting the best financial aid packages for which they are eligible. Those who file the form from January through March receive, on average, twice the amount of grant money as those who file later, said Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of the financial aid website Edvisors.com.
That probably is because many states and colleges have early deadlines. Connecticut, for example, has a Feb. 15 deadline for certain aid programs. Plus, some state grant programs distribute awards on a first-come, first-served basis. So waiting means that students may miss out on aid even if they qualify. (Edvisors offers a guide to filling out the Fafsa, available as a free download.)
The other commonly used college financial aid form is CSS/Financial Aid Profile. The New York Times has more information, including some common questions and answers about the forms.