For the first time, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) will be available on Oct. 1, 2016—a permanent change that will affect high school seniors (bound for college in the fall of 2017) and current college students. The FAFSA is used to determine aid awards from the federal government, and in the past, was not available until Jan. 1 of each year. This earlier date is welcome, as it means new applicants no longer need to estimate income and tax information because data can be retrieved directly from the IRS beginning October 1 (For the 2017-2018 FAFSA, 2015 income and tax information will be used). Students and parents also will know their expected family contributions earlier, thereby helping with the college application, selection, and budgeting process.  Visit https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa to find out how to fill out the FAFSA and to create your FSA ID.

The CSS Financial Aid Profile (https://student.collegeboard.org/css-financial-aid-profile) also becomes available October 1, 2016, and uses 2015 income and tax information. This form generally is used by private institutions (often along with the FAFSA) to determine institutional aid and scholarship awards.  

Parents and students should check requirements and deadlines on each school’s website’s financial aid pages, especially if planning to submit early applications. Missing deadlines can substantially reduce chances for eligibility.   We recommend submitting financial aid forms at least two weeks prior to any deadlines.  

Ferah Aziz is a college coach with launchphase2.  Visit www.launchphase2.com  to learn more about coaching for college bound & college attending students.