Families applying for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) can now begin the process earlier.
As of Oct. 1, families can begin applying for FAFSA, which they previously had to wait until March 1 to do in Michigan, said Kim McLaughlin, director of Tri-Cities College Access Network.
The earlier timeline also means families will use older income information for the forms. For example, a family filling out the federal forms for the 2017-18 school year will use income information from 2015.
This change is a welcomed one, according to McLaughlin.
Over the years, McLaughlin said they’ve heard families express feeling stressed about getting their taxes done before March in order to have the information ready for filing the student financial aid application, or the hassle of using estimates and correcting the information later.
“We’re hoping this will alleviate some of that,” she said.
Although the federal government application timeline has changed, the dates for the state and universities have remained the same, so families will still have to wait to know their entire financial picture for scholarships and grants, McLaughlin said.
With an earlier window to begin applying for and hearing back about FAFSA, McLaughlin said it will help students make decisions because they will have longer to look at least a portion of their financial information.
When filling out the FAFSA form, students should include all the colleges they plan to apply to.
Families and students can already begin signing up and receiving their FAFSA username and password. Without that information, McLaughlin said they can’t begin the process.
The new October date kicks off a month-long focus of “Michigan College Month.” The goal is for every high school senior to have completed at least one college application, filed FAFSA forms, or applied for a scholarship. Spring Lake and Grand Haven high school seniors will participate during the weeks of Oct. 10-14 and Oct. 17-21, respectively.
The annual College Goal Sunday event will also be held earlier, given the changes for filing FAFSA. The event is aimed at providing families assistance with filling out FAFSA forms. The date for this year’s event will soon be determined.
McLaughlin said they often hear some families don’t plan on filling out FAFSA because they think their income is too high for financial need, or they don’t want to provide their tax information. Regardless of how families plan to pay for post-secondary education, McLaughlin said they should still fill out FAFSA because it will let universities know how their students plan to pay for their education.
“Any student who files is qualified for some unsubsidized loan,” McLaughlin said.