If you want to qualify for financial aid, then you have to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). That’s just a fact of life!
Like the name suggests, it is free to apply each school year for all kinds of federal financial aid, including scholarships, grants, work-study jobs and student loans (although you should stay far, far away from any student loans). And on top of federal funding, FAFSA also helps you become eligible for state and college-specific aid too!
However, there is a ticking clock when it comes to applying for FAFSA. The deadline to apply for FAFSA in any academic year is always June 30 (which also happens to be the very last day of that academic year).
But believe us when we tell you that you don’t want to wait that long to turn in your application. The longer you wait, the more likely you are to miss out on scholarships and grants that can help you pay for college. In other words, don’t treat your FAFSA like that term paper you waited to start until the day before it was due!
When Can I Start Applying for FAFSA?
There are two very important dates to keep in mind if you want to apply for federal financial aid through FAFSA: October 1 and June 30.
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Let’s start with October 1. This is the date when you can start applying for financial aid for the following academic year. For the 2021–2022 academic year, a student could have filed their FAFSA beginning on October 1, 2020—nine months before the academic year begins.
And hey, it’s never too early to start thinking about next year! If you’re planning on taking classes during the 2022–2023 academic year, you can file your FAFSA starting on October 1, 2021.
This is important: File your FAFSA as close as possible to that October 1 start date! The sooner you file, you’ll likely qualify for more scholarships, grants and other types of financial aid. If you wait too long to file, you’ll end up with whatever is left over after everyone else gets their aid . . . which probably won’t be much.
So circle that date on your calendar, set a reminder on your phone to apply . . . do whatever you have to do so you don’t miss out on any funds you might qualify for!
When Is the Federal FAFSA Deadline?
The last day to apply for FAFSA is usually on the last day of the academic year—which is June 30.
So maybe you’re wondering, When is FAFSA due for the fall 2021 semester? For the 2021–2022 academic year, the deadline to apply for FAFSA is June 30, 2022. Looking even further ahead, the last day to file for federal financial aid for the 2022–2023 academic year will be June 30, 2023.
We know what you’re thinking: But the fall and spring semesters are already over by then . . . what’s the point of applying at the deadline—or close to it? It’s true, you might have missed out on most of the financial aid you could have gotten for the academic year . . . but not all hope is lost!
In fact, you can still qualify for federal grants that could be used retroactively to cover what you’ve already paid for the fall and spring semesters. And some schools might let you use some of the money you receive to pay for summer classes.
What happens if you miss the June 30 federal deadline? Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do. You’re no longer eligible to submit your FAFSA form for that academic year after that date. So our advice is pretty simple: Don’t. Miss. The. Deadline.
FAFSA Start Date
Federal FAFSA Deadline
October 1, 2020
June 30, 2022
October 1, 2021
June 30, 2023
What About State FAFSA Deadlines?
On top of the federal aid you’ll receive from FAFSA, states often use the information you submit through your FAFSA to help them figure out how much aid to give you—and they have their own deadlines that are usually much sooner than June 30.
Each state has its own process in place. Some states have a hard deadline in place while others strongly suggest you apply as soon as possible. But since many states don’t have much financial aid money to go around, they will award financial aid on a first-come, first-serve basis and once those funds are gone, they’re gone.
If your state doesn’t get your information on time, you hurt your chances of getting financial aid for the upcoming academic year. We can’t stress this enough: Submit your FAFSA as soon as you possibly can!
Side note: Some states will also ask that you fill out some additional forms, so make sure you do your homework on what steps you need to take in your state.
Need to find out when your state’s FAFSA deadline is? Head over to the Federal Student Aid website, which lists when each state’s financial aid deadline is and what else might be required for you to qualify for aid.1 But just a heads up: A bunch of states will tell you to go straight to your school’s financial aid office for deadline information.
Do Individual Colleges Have FAFSA Deadlines?
Believe it or not, colleges have their own deadlines too. After all, they have their own scholarships and grant money to give out, and most of them also reward students who apply as early as possible for FAFSA.
Many due dates for FAFSA set by colleges are priority deadlines. That just means that you’ll be considered for the most money from that school if you apply early and on time. Many colleges have this date posted clearly on their financial aid webpages, so that’s a good place to start. If you’re having trouble finding those deadlines, give the school’s financial aid office a call.
But really, most college application deadlines go hand in hand with that October 1 FAFSA start date, so if you submit your application on that date or soon after that, you should be golden!
How FAFSA Can Help You Graduate Without Debt
If there’s one thing we want you to remember, it’s this: Do not go into debt to go to college. It’s completely possible to cash flow your education, and the scholarships and grants you could receive from federal, state or college funding through FAFSA can play a role to help you get a debt-free degree.
Like we mentioned earlier, FAFSA is used to figure out if you qualify for financial aid that falls mainly into two camps: scholarships and grants, and student loans. So make sure you understand what you are saying yes to and what you need to say no to.
Say yes to scholarships and grants (like the Pell Grant and SEOG Grant)—that’s free money! Work-study programs also give you an opportunity to earn a paycheck from an on-campus job to help you with tuition.
For the 2021–2022 academic year, students who qualified for a Pell Grant award received anywhere between $672 and $6,495.2,3 But just a few years ago, more than 2 million students who would have qualified for the Pell Grant failed to file the FAFSA. What’s even worse is that 1.2 million of those students would have qualified for the maximum award amount.4
Let that sink in for a moment: More than a million students left thousands of dollars in free money on the table that could have been used to help pay for college . . . all because they didn’t take the time to fill out the form. Don’t make that mistake!
And remember: You need to say no to any student loans that come your way. Despite what anyone might try to tell you, student loans aren’t really “aid”—they’re a trap that could keep you in debt for years or even decades after you graduate.5 That’s because you will have to pay back the money you borrowed (plus interest) with repayment plans designed to keep you in debt for a long, long time.
More Help Saving for College
Tools like the Education Savings Account (ESA) and 529 plans can also help you save up the money you or your child needs to go to school without taking on a penny of student loan debt.
Both the ESA and 529 help you invest for education expenses, come with some great tax advantages, and neither of them will hurt your chances of getting financial aid through FAFSA!
We can connect you with a trusted financial advisor through our SmartVestor program who can walk you through the ins and outs of both types of plans so that you can figure out which option is best for you.
Ready to get started? Find your SmartVestor Pro today!