The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA®, is a form students can fill out each school year to apply for grants, work-study, or federal student loans from the government for higher education pursuits.
By not filling it out, or missing the FAFSA deadline, students may not receive financial aid that could help them pay for college. Many states and individual schools also use the FAFSA to help determine if a student qualifies for aid. Therefore, it’s helpful to fill out your FAFSA as early as possible and not miss the important application deadlines, as there is a limited amount of aid available.
What is the FAFSA?
The FAFSA is the application for federal student aid from the US government. The type of federal student aid awarded is determined based on income, usually the income of the student’s parents, if they are considered a dependent student. If a student is considered independent, then they are not required to submit their parent’s financial information. Federal financial aid includes student loans, grants, scholarships, and work-study jobs. It’s important when applying to schools to consider all of the costs involved.
Students can estimate their financial aid online ahead of time, which can help inform decisions about where to attend school. If you are already in school, remember that the FAFSA must be filled out every year, since income and tax information might have changed.
In general, the eligibility requirements for federal aid state that for most programs, students:
• Must demonstrate financial need (though there is some non-need based aid, such as unsubsidized student loans) and,
• Must be a US citizen or an eligible noncitizen, and
• Be enrolled in an qualifying degree or certificate program at your college or career school
For further detail, take a look at the basic eligibility requirements on the Student Aid website .
The FAFSA form will need information about the student, their family, and their financial situation. This includes things like Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, and federal tax information or tax returns for either the student or their parents (depending on whether or not they are a dependent student). Plus, this includes information on bank account balances such as savings, investments, and other financial information.
FAFSA Open Date and Deadline
|School year||FAFSA open date||FAFSA Deadline|
|2021-22||Oct. 1, 2020||June 30, 2022|
File Your FAFSA for Next Year Close to October 1
Generally, it makes sense to submit the FAFSA promptly after the October 1st application release. Some aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, so submitting it early could potentially help students improve their chance of receiving some federal aid. In addition, since some schools determine funding on a first-come-first-serve basis, filling it out early will help ensure you get the funding you need.
It will also help you get what you need well in advance, so you’re not scrambling at the last minute.
File Your FAFSA for Last Year by June 30
Students must file the FAFSA no later than June 30th for the previous school year. So, for the academic year 2021-22, you must file by June 30th, 2022. While the federal deadline for submitting the FAFSA is after the end of the school year, it may be possible for some aid to be applied retroactively or be applied to summer courses. While this is the federal government’s deadline, it’s essential to submit the application well before then since students generally need funding to pay for the school year.
Again, individual states and institutions have different deadlines for awarding financial aid to students. Waiting too long may put you in a sticky financial situation if you don’t receive the funding you need to start school.
State and institutional FAFSA deadlines
So, when is FAFSA due? Below you will find the federal, state, and institutional FAFSA deadlines.
Institutional FAFSA Deadlines
Students typically have around 21 months to file the FAFSA, but individual schools may have their own earlier deadlines. So if you are applying to many different colleges, check each school’s FAFSA deadline and apply by the earliest one.
These priority deadlines mean you need to get your FAFSA application in by the school’s date to be considered for the possible aid. While filling out your FAFSA, you can include every school you consider, even if you haven’t been accepted to college yet.
State FAFSA Deadlines
Individual state deadlines can be found from the US Department of Education. Some states have strict cutoffs, while others are just best-practice suggestions—so check carefully.
States may have limited funds to offer as well.
Federal FAFSA Deadline
So, when is FAFSA due?
Again, the FAFSA becomes available almost a full year in advance of the year that aid is awarded. When is the deadline for FAFSA? While the final deadline for FAFSA submission is June 30, the FAFSA becomes available on October 1. That’s earlier than most individual college deadlines for application.
It’s generally recommended that students fill out the FAFSA as soon as possible after October 1 for next school year’s aid, to avoid missing out on available funds. For instance, for the 2021 to 2020 school year, the FAFSA became available October 1, 2019, though the final deadline to submit is June 30, 2021, at the end of the academic year it applies to.
But because some federal student aid programs have limited funds, the US Department of Education recommends applying as soon as you can. Plus, there are often earlier school and state deadlines to worry about first.
Taking The Next Steps After Submitting the FAFSA
So what happens after you hit “submit” on your FAFSA?
• First, students receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) which summarizes the data and information submitted. This generally arrives anytime from three days to three weeks after the FAFSA is completed.
• Check if the information is correct (and if not, make corrections online if needed). The SAR will not state how much financial aid students will receive, nor will it detail the income or tax information submitted. Instead, if a school was listed on the FAFSA form and the student has been accepted, or you are currently enrolled in school, the school will calculate your aid and send you an electronic or paper aid offer (sometimes called an award letter) telling you the amount of aid you’re eligible for at that school.
• Wait for aid acceptance. Timing of the aid offer depends on the school and can be as soon as the winter before the next academic year, or as late as the summer before the fall semester starts. It all depends on when the application was submitted and how the school schedules it out.
Receiving financial aid can be a great relief when it comes to paying for higher education. But keep in mind that federal aid can come in the form of grants, work-study, and student loans. And Direct Loans are the most common federal student loans available for students looking for financial aid.
Students who don’t qualify for enough financial aid via FAFSA and are still looking for ways to finance their education could look into scholarships, grants, or even private student loans.
For example, SoFi makes the process simple—so paying for school is stress-free. Plus, SoFi has flexible repayment options to help you find the loan that fits your budget. Private student loans lack the same borrower protections as federal loans, so this method of financial aid should be considered as an option only after other sources of funding have been evaluated.
Completing the FAFSA application is the first step in a student’s journey to apply for federal aid (including federal student loans, scholarships, grants, and work-study). The FAFSA form is generally released on October 1st of the year before the aid year and closes on July 30th of the school year. For the 2021-2022 school year, the FAFSA application opened on October 1, 2020 and will close on June 30, 2022.
If students need additional sources of financing for student aid, they may consider private student loans to fill in the gaps. SoFi offers competitive rates to qualifying borrowers and there are absolutely no fees.