As a high school senior, you may be overwhelmed with the college application process. From writing essays to requesting letters of recommendation, there are many tasks to complete before you can even think about packing your bags for college. However, one important step that should not be overlooked is submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). In this article, we will discuss why submitting the FAFSA matters in your college application and when you should submit it.


What is the FAFSA?

Before we dive into the importance of the FAFSA, let’s first understand what it is. The FAFSA is a form that students must fill out in order to be considered for federal financial aid, including grants, work-study programs, and loans. It is also used by many colleges and universities to determine a student’s eligibility for institutional aid. The FAFSA is available for the upcoming academic year starting on October 1st, and it is recommended that it be submitted as soon as possible.

Financial Aid

The main reason why submitting the FAFSA 2024-25 matters in your college application is because it can significantly impact the amount of financial aid you receive. By submitting the FAFSA, you are providing information about your family’s financial situation, which is used to determine your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). This number is then used by colleges to determine your financial need and award you with aid accordingly. Without submitting the FAFSA, you may miss out on potential financial aid opportunities that could make attending college more affordable.

Changes to FAFSA during the years

In recent years, the FAFSA portal has undergone several changes to make the application process more user-friendly and accessible. Some of the changes include:

  1. Early FAFSA: Starting with the 2017-2018 academic year, the FAFSA became available on October 1st instead of January 1st. This change allows students and their families to submit the FAFSA earlier and receive financial aid offers sooner.
  2. Prior-Prior Year (PPY): Another significant change is the use of prior-prior year (PPY) income information. Previously, students and their families had to wait until they had filed their tax returns for the current year before completing the FAFSA. With the PPY system, students can use income information from two years prior, which allows them to complete the FAFSA using already available tax information.
  3. Data Retrieval Tool (DRT): The Data Retrieval Tool is a feature that allows students and their families to automatically transfer their tax information from the IRS directly into the FAFSA form. This tool simplifies the application process and reduces the chances of errors in reporting income information.
  4. Simplified FAFSA: In recent years, The FAFSA has been simplified to make it easier for students and their families to complete. The number of questions has been reduced, and some questions have been clarified to provide clearer instructions.

These are just a few examples of the changes that have been made to the FAFSA portal. It’s important to note that the specific changes to the new FAFSA portal for the 2024-25 academic year are not mentioned in the article. To get the most up-to-date information on the changes to the FAFSA portal, I recommend visiting the official FAFSA website or contacting the financial aid office at the college or university you are applying to.


Changes to FAFSA 2024 

  1. New User Accounts and Consent: Everyone involved in completing the FAFSA form (students, spouses, parents, and parent’s spouses) needs a account. Additionally, all contributors must consent to have their federal tax information directly transferred into the form via the IRS. This can streamline the process but isn’t mandatory for submission.
  2. Streamlined Form: The FAFSA form itself will be shorter and simpler, focusing on collecting essential information instead of asking about assets like savings accounts.
  3. Updated Need Analysis: The way financial need is calculated is changing. The new system will consider fewer factors, like income and family size, and will be less sensitive to fluctuations in income year to year.
  4. Earlier Estimated Aid Information: Students will be able to see estimated financial aid offers earlier in the process, allowing them to compare options and make informed decisions.
  5. Expanded Pell Grant Eligibility: More students will be eligible for Pell Grants, which are need-based grants for undergraduate students that don’t need to be repaid.
  6. Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Enhancements: New measures will make it easier for borrowers who work in public service to qualify for PSLF, which forgives remaining federal student loan debt after 10 years of qualifying payments.
  7. Increased Flexibility: The FAFSA will be more flexible in how it handles changes in a student’s circumstances, such as changes in income or dependency status.


Institutional Aid

In addition to federal aid, many colleges and universities also use the FAFSA to determine eligibility for their own institutional aid. This can include scholarships, grants, and other forms of financial assistance. By not submitting the FAFSA, you may be limiting your chances of receiving additional aid from the school you are applying to. This can make a significant difference in the overall cost of attending college.

When to Submit the FAFSA

One of the questions we get is when does FAFSA open for 2024-25? Well, the portal had a major makeover so it was not open until January 31st of 2024, and it is still considered a “soft launch” but according to the FAFSA website you can submit your information during the soft launch of the portal and your information will be saved, however, the website also suggests that “You can complete the form to apply for financial aid to help pay for attendance at college between July 1, 2024, and June 30, 2025. You will have plenty of time to complete the FAFSA form.

Although we recommend to submit the FAFSA as soon as possible, as some forms of aid are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. Additionally, some states and colleges have their own deadlines for submitting the FAFSA, so it is important to check with the schools you are applying to for their specific deadlines.

Use your FAFSA information to look for scholarships

As mentioned before, by submitting the FAFSA, you are automatically considered for federal financial aid programs and you can find scholarships that are awarded based on financial need. Make sure to complete the FAFSA accurately and on time to maximize your chances of receiving aid.

  1. Research institutional scholarships: Many colleges and universities offer their own scholarships based on various criteria, including academic achievement, extracurricular involvement, and financial need. Once you have submitted the FAFSA, check with the financial aid office of the schools you are applying to for information on institutional scholarships. They can provide you with details on eligibility requirements and application procedures.
  2. Explore external scholarship opportunities: There are numerous external organizations that offer scholarships to students. These scholarships may have specific eligibility criteria, such as field of study, community involvement, or demographic background. Websites like Fastweb,, and College Board’s Scholarship Search can help you find external scholarships that match your profile. Some of these scholarships may require you to submit additional applications or essays, so be sure to carefully review the requirements and deadlines.
  3. Utilize scholarship search engines: There are several online scholarship search engines that can help you find scholarships based on your personal information, including the information provided in the FAFSA. These search engines allow you to create a profile and match you with scholarships that align with your background, interests, and qualifications. Some popular scholarship search engines include Fastweb, Cappex, and Niche.
  4. Check with local organizations and community foundations: Many local organizations, community foundations, and businesses offer scholarships to students in their area. These scholarships may be less competitive than national scholarships and can provide additional financial support. Research local organizations, such as rotary clubs, chambers of commerce, and nonprofit organizations, to see if they offer scholarships and how to apply.

Remember, the key to finding scholarships is to start early, stay organized, and thoroughly research the opportunities available to you.

Final Thoughts

Submitting the FAFSA is an important step in the college application process. Not only does it determine your eligibility for federal financial aid, but it can also impact the amount of institutional aid you receive. It is recommended to submit the FAFSA as soon as possible, and to check with your schools for any specific deadlines. By taking the time to complete the FAFSA, you may be opening up more opportunities for financial assistance and making your college dreams more attainable.

Have you submitted the FAFSA yet? Let us know in the comments below!

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