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FAFSA-There’s an app for that

Sep 19, 2018

It’s that time of year again: FAFSA season. The Federal Application for Student Aid opens October 1 but this year it’s featuring a new twist.  Now available in app form, FAFSA is now more accessible and easy to complete than ever.  

So what’s new?

In a long effort to modernize the federal system, the Department of Education is rolling out a FASFA app. Featuring new colors, ease of access on multiple devices and an overall simpler format, the design is intended to boost current numbers of completion and improve borrowers experiences. Although the form will still have the same amount of questions,  they will be grouped together in a digestible format, the app will even feature hints to help answer each question on the form.  Historically, only 3 out of 5 high school seniors file FAFSA leaving nearly 4 billion dollars worth of funds unused, by bringing the form to student’s fingertips there is no excuse not to get started!

Getting Started

Gather your tax forms (and smartphone)! Prior-Prior Year Taxes are used to complete the family financial information listed on the FAFSA.  Since most families have these tax forms completed at the time of application, parents can opt to use the digital transfer from the IRS via their Data Retrieval Tool. This allows the financial details of your tax return can automatically populate the FAFSA, saving you time from manual data entry. 


It’s important to submit your family’s financial aid information as soon as possible. Early submission allows more time for schools to process incoming information, and families can get a better idea of their financial aid eligibility earlier in the process. Handling FAFSA information early ensures a clear picture of funding way ahead of May 1 admissions deadlines.  When applying for Early Decisions, do yourself a favor and complete financial aid early as well. That is because early decision is generally a binding admissions agreement unless the financial aid numbers end up with an unaffordable option. Bottom line, it’s always better to complete the FAFSA early to stay ahead of the process.

Pay attention to institutional funding deadlines:

Institutional funding is money reserved by the college and awarded based on their own internal criteria and methodology.  Eligibility requirements and deadlines can vary from school to school. Make sure to identify any deadlines for institutional funding to stay ahead of the curve. The simplest way to achieve this is by making sure all financial aid forms are completed and submitted in advance of any deadlines.

Remember the CSS profile:

 The FAFSA obviously gets a lot of attention, but the CSS / Financial Aid Profile is also required for about 250 select colleges when applying for financial aid.  It goes more in-depth than the FAFSA and is also available beginning October 1.

Dealing with uncertainty on the state level:

Many states provide need-based grant programs to students with low income considering data provided on the FAFSA.  While the federal FAFSA is available beginning October 1, not every state will have their grant budgets for the 2019-2020 years ready yet.  Be aware of any financial aid awards relying on estimates for state-based funding as they may be subject to change based on final state budget legislature.