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New FAFSA Form Rollout a ‘Bumpy Ride’ But Don’t Give Up

how to fill out fafsa form

The highly anticipated, overhauled 2024-2025 Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA was released in early 2024, but has run into a few snags.

Prospective college students around the country are delaying decisions as they await financial aid offers derailed by errors plaguing the new system.

The delays have put pressure on colleges as well, as many schools cannot provide complete offers to students without knowing how much aid a student may get from the federal government. Many schools have extended the deadline for making a tuition deposit from May 1 to June 1 as they continue to monitor the situation closely.

Donald Kerr, director of student lending and college services at AAA Northeast, urges families not to give up.

“The redesigned FAFSA is intended to help families who are most in need of financial assistance to make a college education possible. It increases the amount of aid available by billions of dollars,” said Kerr. “Unfortunately, the delays have added up to the point where many students are starting to give up and instead seeking employment and looking at community colleges on a part-time basis.”

Kerr offers the following guidance for students and families:

  • Check the status of your FAFSA on studentaid.gov to ensure it was submitted, processed successfully and sent to colleges. If it has been sent, students should sign up for a student portal at each prospective school, which will give them access to view financial aid before award letters arrive.
  • If your FAFSA form has not been processed, reach out to the Federal Student Aid office by phone or use the live chat option on studentaid.gov to determine the reason or error. While some issues are outside the control of students and families, such as a system glitch expected to be corrected by mid-April, other issues may have a simple fix.
  • If needed, students can reach out to a school to request an individual extension. While many schools have already extended deadlines, students can reach out directly with concerns about their own timeline given financial aid delays.
  • Know that the Department of Education and schools across the country are working hard to get all issues and delays resolved as soon as possible so students can make the very important decision on where to start their college journey.

“It may be a bumpy ride this year, but don’t give up on what could be one of the most generous financial aid seasons for those who need the help the most,” Kerr added.

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Who Should Fill Out a FAFSA?

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

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.

Normally, the FAFSA is available by Oct.1 each year. The deadline to complete the 2024-2025 form is June 30, 2025, although students and their parents should check if their colleges and states have different deadlines. After the form is processed, applicants receive a FAFSA Submission Summary (formally the Student Aid Report), outlining the amount and type of aid for which they might be eligible.

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 Kerr.

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? Tell us in the comments.

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