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,

Jodi Polster
Director of Education,
College Made Simple and the College Planning Network

Related Articles:

FAFSA Frequently Asked Questions

FAFSA Frequently Asked Questions: Loans, Student Aid Reports, and Divorce

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4 Comments

Susie WattsNovember 19th, 2010 at 3:09 pm

As a college consultant, I don’t think we can stress enough how important it is to get scholarship forms, FAFSA forms and CSS forms (if needed) finished and submitted early. Too many parents think that regardless of when they submit these forms, the money is there. Deadlines are there for a reason and most institutions are pretty serious about enforcing them.

College Direction
Denver, Colorado

Lynn ChiavaroNovember 21st, 2010 at 6:25 pm

If you are a business owner you have to wait until you receive your W-2 forms . I won’t have my tax information in time to submit my forms on Jan 1 as I have to wait to receive my W-2s. Since I work with Northwesten Mutual I also work with a lot of business owners who are in the same boat. Any advice on how to handle the FAFSA if you are a small business owner?

LouieNovember 22nd, 2010 at 8:19 am

On the FAFSA for the 2011-2012 school year, you can estimate your 2010 tax information. One of the choices for the question that asks if your parents have completed their income tax return for 2010 is “my parent will file, but have not yet completed their tax return”. You do not need your W-2 to submit the FAFSA. Once your 2010 taxes are completed you can update the FAFSA. If you are not going to have your taxes completed until later in the year, past April 15th, you would want to contact the colleges’ financial aid office to let them know that you will need an extension to update the FAFSA with your actual tax information.

VictorNovember 26th, 2010 at 2:04 pm

It is so easy to let time slip by too, or put off getting the forms filled till the deadline. Seems like it can sneak up too quickly sometimes, so I always think it is a good idea to do it ASAP. Really though, that can be applied to most things, like taxes, too.

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Editor's Note: Scott Weingold has been ranked the #1 “College Financial Aid Expert Worth Knowing About” in the entire country by CollegeStats.org.  He has co-authored the book, “The Real Secret To Paying For College. The Insider’s Guide To Sending Your Child To College – Without Spending Your Life’s Savings.” Scott also publishes a popular free online newsletter, “College Funding Made Simple" which reveals insider’s tips, methods, and strategies for beating the high cost of college.

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