Shorter, Less Complex, New FAFSA Now Available

how to fill out fafsa form

The highly anticipated, overhauled 2024-2025 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) was “softly” released Dec. 31, and families are busy pulling out their calculators and tax returns.

The new FAFSA form is available online “periodically” during the launch period, according to the U.S. Department of Education. The document is accessible only for short periods of time to allow for site maintenance and technical updates while the agency monitors performance and functionality. 

College students and/or their parents complete and submit the form, which includes information about a family’s income and assets, to apply for federal financial aid for college costs between July 2024 and June 2025. Many states and colleges also use FAFSA data to award their own financial aid.

The deadline to complete the 2024-2025 form is June 30, 2025, although students and their parents should check to see if their colleges and states have earlier deadlines. Colleges’ deadlines are in the financial aid sections of their websites and state deadlines are available at studentaid.gov. After the form is processed, applicants receive a Student Aid Report, outlining the amount and type of aid for which they might be eligible.

Normally the FAFSA is available by Oct.1, and it is expected to return to that release date this year.

Who Should Fill Out a FAFSA?

College students and their parents should submit a FAFSA form annually. This includes those who believe they won’t qualify for aid because they make too much money. Low-interest financial aid loans are available to everyone regardless of income. Even if a student won’t use financial aid, many private scholarships want to see the results of the FAFSA form. Millions of dollars of federal student aid are left on the table each year simply because people did not fill out a FAFSA form, according to the College Board.

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The New FAFSA Has Fewer Questions

The primary goals of the FAFSA revisions were to shorten and simplify the 128-question form and develop new formulas so more students qualify for aid. The new FAFSA has about 40 questions, and some applicants could answer as few as 28.

A simpler form could make higher education accessible to more people.

“Many families have viewed the form as too difficult to complete, which created a barrier to obtaining a college education for some,” said Donald Kerr, director of student lending and college services for AAA Northeast.

Updates to calculations that determine financial aid are projected to increase eligibility for federal student aid, including Pell Grants, for as many as 610,000 new students from low-income backgrounds.

Other Major Changes

  • Instead of using data from the form to estimate the expected family contribution (EFC) to college costs, a new formula creates a student aid index (SAI). Schools plan to use the SAI to determine the extent of a student’s financial need by subtracting the SAI from the school’s total cost.
  • If a student’s parents are not married, only the parent who contributes the most financial support to the student needs to be listed on the form. In the past, contributions from the parent with whom the student lives carried more weight.
  • Each student and at least one parent or contributor need to create a federal ID. Users will not have access to the form until the new usernames and passwords are cleared by the Social Security Administration, according to Kerr.
  • Males no longer are required to verify that they have registered for the selective service (draft) to qualify for federal financial aid, Kerr noted. (Males between the ages of 18 and 25 still must register for the draft).
  • In the past, students could designate up to 10 colleges to receive their FAFSA data; now they can list 20.

Tips on How to Fill Out a FAFSA Form

  • You no longer have to download your tax data into the FAFSA. All you have to do is sign an authorization form giving the IRS permission to share your information, although it is a good idea to have a copy of your return handy in case you need to refer to it.
  • The form is separated into a student section and a parent section, and while the student completes their section first and then invites the parent to do their section via email, it is a good idea for families to complete the form together.

Federal aid can help finance your education, but often it is not enough on its own. Learn more about AAA Northeast’s affordable student lending products and services.

What do you think of the new FAFSA?

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