If you are in college or headed to college in the coming year, you will want to know and understand some important changes coming to the Free Application For Student Aid (FAFSA). I’ll admit, most years any changes are minor but this year is different. Below are the things you need to know about FAFSA changes.

3 Things You Need To Know About FAFSA Changes

#1. Earlier Deadline

The form to fill out for student aid became available online as of October 1st. This is a full 3 months earlier than usual. This matters because a handful of colleges have also moved their deadlines for financial aid up as well.
In many cases, this means submitting the FAFSA before you have to submit your application to attend the college. If you miss the financial aid deadline, you are out of luck for receiving financial aid for the year. As a result, it is extremely important you know if any college you are attending or planning to apply to has changed their financial aid deadline.

Another reason why it is important to file as soon as possible for financial aid is because it is on a first come, first served. So the sooner you submit your FAFSA, the better off you will be.

#2. Financial Reporting Is Easier

In the past, you had to complete your FAFSA in January and base the financial information off of your taxes from the previous year. This meant best guesses for most since they don’t know their financial situation until they file their taxes.

As a result, there were many revisions that had to be done to many families FAFSA forms. By moving the date and letting you use your 2015 tax information to fill out your 2017 FAFSA, you no longer need to perform a best guess and submit a revision. You have the exact numbers you need to report.

As a friendly reminder when filling out your FAFSA, don’t list any retirement accounts. These are not taken into account, so there is no need to list their values. This includes any 401k plans, IRAs and any other type of retirement account you may have.

#3. File A FAFSA Regardless

Even if you aren’t looking to get financial aid you should still file a FAFSA. Why you ask? First, when you file, you automatically qualify for a federal loan of $5,500 for your freshman year.

And if you aren’t a freshman, there are still benefits. For example, you need to file a FAFSA is you intend to do work study in college. If your parents are looking to take out a PLUS loan, a FAFSA is needed. Also, a FAFSA needs to be filed for many scholarships and merit aid.

So don’t think just because you aren’t looking for financial aid you can skip applying. Apply just to be safe.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, these are the things you need to know about FAFSA changes. The biggest point, aside from filing your form earlier than in the past, is to just simply file it. You never know when you might qualify for a scholarship or merit aid. It would be unfortunate to have to pass up this free money for college simply because you didn’t complete a form.

Take the time to file your FAFSA and breathe easy knowing you did.