New year, new process! If you are a student and/or a parent of a student who will be going to college for the 2024-25 academic year, the U.S. Department of Education has news for you. The Department’s new FAFSA form, historically released in October, will be released on December 31, 2023, at www.studentaid.gov. While the delay may be frustrating, there is a silver lining. The new FAFSA form will have less than half the number of questions than previous FAFSA forms and will take less time to fill out.

What the heck is a FAFSA? FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. It is the gateway to accessing billions of financial aid in the form of scholarships, Pell grants, work-study funding and student loans available each year. For the 2022-23 academic year, over $240 billion in financial aid was awarded to those who filed a FAFSA, an average award of $15,480 per full-time equivalent (FTE) student.

Here are some tips and tricks to help you navigate and complete the new FAFSA form:

Some of the Impending FAFSA Form Changes

1. Fewer questions mean the form takes less time and is less complicated

Traditionally, the FAFSA consists of 108 questions, but the new form will reduce those down to 46 questions. In some cases, students may only be required to complete 18 questions, which would take the average person around 10 minutes to answer. This not only makes the form less intimidating but also less time-consuming.

2. More language options are available

In the past the FAFSA form has only been available in English and Spanish. The new form will be available in the 11 most common languages spoken in the United States.

3. No more benefits for parents with more than one child in college; must report the income of the parent who provides the most financial support

Historically, parents with multiple children in college would get a break and get the benefit of more money for having more than one student in college at the same time. Now, the Expected Family Contribution is changing and will be known as the Student Aid Index. Families will no longer receive the historical benefit. Also, in the past, parents could file the form using the income of the lower-earning parent in the hopes of getting more financial aid. The new form requires the parent providing the most financial support to fill out the form with their financial information. 

Tips for filling out the FAFSA

1. Fill out the FAFSA as early as possible.

The financial aid received through FAFSA is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis and impacts funds disbursed at both the Federal and State levels. So, make it your New Year’s resolution to fill out the FAFSA form and file it on New Year’s Day (January 1, 2024)! Also, everyone (parent and child) filling out the FAFSA form needs an FSA ID from the Department. Go to www.studentaid.gov/fsa-id/create-account/launch and set up an account if you don’t already have one. Don’t wait! Set up your account today and start your New Year off right.

2. Give Your Consent to Use the IRS Tax Data Retrieval Tool

This can help save you time and avoid filing errors. It is going to be your best option when it comes to inputting tax return information on your FAFSA form.

3. Ask questions

Unsure of the information you’re putting on the form? Contact the Federal Student Aid (FSA) Center to answer your questions about the FAFSA process. You can also contact the financial aid office at the college you are planning to attend. It is better to ask questions than to guess on such an important document, so be sure to take the time to write down all your questions and ask a financial aid expert.

While filling out the FAFSA may sound intimidating, the aid awarded can make it worthwhile. Don’t ever be afraid to ask for help. Start the process sooner rather than later by setting up your account and getting familiar with the process. And please, don’t just assume you won’t get it or aren’t eligible. You won’t know until you try.

Cheers to a Happy Holiday and a prosperous New Year! Good luck.


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