TAKING ACTION: Changes to the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA)

It's important that every college student in the United States fills out the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) so they can receive any need-based financial assistance they are eligible for. This financial aid includes federal grants and loans, scholarships from the state and school as well as college work-study jobs.

Filling out the FAFSA form can be tricky. Your first step is visiting FAFSA's website, fafsa.ed.gov, to create a FSA ID. You'll also need a list of forms to complete the FAFSA:

  • Social Security Numbers for the student and parents
  • Driver's licenses
  • Federal tax returns
  • W-2 forms
  • Current bank statements
  • Investment statements

Applying for need-based financial aid does not cost money. Even if a student comes from a middle class family, he/she should still apply as there isn't an income cap.

There are two new changes to the FAFSA submission this year:

  1. You can now submit the FAFSA form as early as October 1st instead of January 1st. October 1st isn't the deadline but early submission could help a student receive aid awards that are given on a first come, first served basis.
  2. Students can now base their answers on their federal tax returns from the previous year. This new policy is called "prior-prior year." For exampl, a student is able to use their 2015 federal tax returns this year, and won't have to go back and update the form next spring when they file taxes again.

To receive federal grants and loans, students must submit the FAFSA by June 30, 2017. But, check your college and state deadlines, as you could miss out on their money if you wait to apply.