The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is one of the most important financial aid forms you'll fill out. Qualifying students for federal grants, loans and work-study jobs, the FAFSA is used by many schools, states and private organizations to determine whether a student is eligible for need-based awards.
Which is why when figuring out how to pay for college it's crucial to file the FAFSA as quickly as possible. The FAFSA becomes available on fafsa.ed.gov as early as January 1 of each year. Since some aid awards are handed out on a first-come, first-served basis, it pays to estimate your income taxes for the upcoming year, complete the application as early as possible and file a correction later (if necessary) once your taxes are finished for the year.
If it's already months past January 1, that's OK. To qualify for federal aid, students can submit the FAFSA as late as midnight Central Time on June 30th of the following year -- for example, the 2014-2015 FAFSA becomes available on January 1, 2014, but the deadline isn't until June 30, 2015. Corrections can be filed as late as September 19, 2015. Those who file late may still be eligible for loans and some grants, but awards that are limited in number, such as work-study positions or the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG), may all be given out already.
Many states have much earlier FAFSA deadlines, as do individual colleges and universities. Download the FAFSA (PDF) to see your state's due date. Contact your academic advisor or your school's financial aid office to find out about their specific FAFSA deadline. See our College Loans 101 guide for more details.
1. "2014-2015 FAFSA Deadlines," U.S. Department of Education, Federal Student Aid, https://fafsa.ed.gov/fotw1415/pdf/Deadlines.pdf
2. "FSEOG (Grants)," U.S. Department of Education, Federal Student Aid, https://studentaid.ed.gov/types/grants-scholarships/fseog
3. "What are the deadlines for filling out the FAFSA?," U.S. Department of Education, Federal Student Aid, https://fafsa.ed.gov/fotw1314/help/deadlines.htm
4. "Work-Study Jobs," U.S. Department of Education, Federal Student Aid, https://studentaid.ed.gov/types/work-study