The financial aid process for the millions of families who send children off to college each year is easier than it used to be, and families are now armed with earlier knowledge about potential financial aid when making decisions about where to apply to school. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the form you need to fill out to receive potential federal financial aid - including grants, loans, and work-study jobs - to help pay for college. Yet, each year thousands of dollars goes unclaimed because students didn’t complete the form to qualify for potential aid.
FAFSA - Important Dates to Know
|Earliest filing date for next academic year aid ||October 1 |
|Financial information included in the form ||Actual |
|Income and tax year basis ||Two-year lag |
|Process for inputting financial information ||Automated option |
Families can file the FAFSA as early as October 1 of the preceding calendar year, and the form will be based on financial information from an earlier year. For example, families will provide 2018 income and tax information for the 2020-2021 academic year, resulting in a two-year lag between the start of the academic award year (e.g., 2020) and the year on which the required income and tax information will be based (e.g., 2018). The required financial information is easily imported from the IRS to the FAFSA filing system via an application called the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. This simplifies the process for completing the form and limits the need for colleges to request income verification support.
Many private colleges also require the College Scholarship Service (CSS) Profile form to be completed as part of the Institutional Methodology for awarding financial aid. The financial information required for the CSS Profile is based on a two-year lag as well. These tools should help families gain an accurate view of their anticipated financial aid and college costs.