When to Apply for the FAFSA
Think you know the deadline? The true answer might surprise you.
Missing the deadline.
It’s one of the most common reasons people miss out on money they might have otherwise received. Turn in your FAFSA late – or error-filled too near the deadline to correct – and you could easily be out of luck.
What’s more, federal and state money is given out on a first-come first-served basis. You might be on time, but if enough folk are ahead of you in line, you’ll receive a smaller slice of the pie – if there’s any left at all.
In other words – if you want the best shot of getting state or federal money, the sooner you submit a correct application, the better.
Of course, that’s not always possible. Maybe you got taken off the wait-list at a college, or you switch your acceptance from one school to another thanks to some new life development.
In such cases, you need to know the latest you can turn in your FAFSA application, and retain eligibility.
The short answer is – it depends. The Federal application deadline is June 30th. That’s a receipt deadline – it has to be in the mail by that date. You have an extension until September 15th to make any corrections that can be done over FAFSA’s website.
Federal Vs. State
However, those dates often aren’t important.
That’s because the FAFSA form isn’t just used for federal money – but also for state assistance.
And each state is different. In Connecticut, you need to have all your forms submitted by February 15th (at least, for priority consideration). In Ohio, the deadline is October 1st – well after the federal deadline.
In most cases, though, the state deadline is earlier – and that’s what should set your pace. If you can’t find a state’s deadline on the FAFSA page here, then your schools’ financial aid administrator should be able to tell you.
Still, it’s worth stressing again – if you submit your application at the last possible moment, you will by definition be at the back of the line. State government and federal programs run out of money before everyone eligible receives any all the time. Demand is usually greater than supply.
What’s more, if you have any mistakes on your application, you may not have time to correct them. Sending incorrect paperwork through a bureaucracy… your odds are not good.
The earliest you can submit a FAFSA is January 1st of the same year – if your college acceptance schedule is amenable, try to get your FAFSA in as close to this date as possible. You’ll be applying to a larger pool of money, you’ll be nearer the head of the line – and you’ll get a response back sooner quite often, helping you to plan your college finances more easily. There is no reason to hold back on your FAFSA application – just because you’re in, doesn’t mean you’ve finished your work. Don’t slack off this near the finish line.
To your successful college search,
Director of Education,
College Made Simple and the College Planning Network