One of the best long-term investments you can make is in higher education. If you’ve got a prospective college student in your household, you’ve either heard, or know first-hand, how daunting the process of finding and applying for financial aid can be.
One crucial step that all prospective students should take is filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form.
A FAFSA qualifies students for financial aid from Uncle Sam. And though the FAFSA is a federal form, most state governments and colleges use it to calculate how much financial aid to award prospective students as well. Completing this one form will give you a much better picture of the kinds of grants, loans and work-study programs that may be open to your higher-ed-bound child.
Naturally, there’s always a rub: You need to be aware of three important deadlines related to college, state and federal aid. Deadlines vary among institutions and they may be approaching sooner than you think.
For students enrolling in fall 2020, you’ll likely need to send a FAFSA…
… to your college by spring 2020. Most colleges require financial aid applications to be made well in advance of the next academic year, often by March for September enrollment. To find the deadline for your school, call the financial aid office or check the school’s website.
… to your state aid office by spring/summer 2020. “State” here means the state you live in rather than the one where the school is located. You can find the deadline for your home state on the front page of the FAFSA website.
… to the federal government by June 30, 2021. This is standard for everyone, and it’s the latest of the three. (If you’re planning to begin classes in the spring or summer of this year, you can apply for federal aid as late as June 30, 2020.)
Our advice is to use the earliest of the three deadlines as your cutoff for completion. Many colleges and states offer aid on a first-come, first-served basis. The window to file the FAFSA always opens on October 1, and we’ve found that best practice is to file your form as soon as you can after that for every year you anticipate having a student in college. Remember, you need to apply for financial aid every year, not just in the year prior to entering college.
If you have any questions about the FAFSA form and how to fill it out, please contact your wealth management team. We’re happy to help.