Frequently asked questions about the new FAFSA

By Blake Taylor
01/24/2017
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Last year, we covered the big FAFSA changes for 2017-18 and beyond. This year, let’s answer your most frequently asked questions about those changes.

Since the FAFSA will now be available on Oct. 1, will the FAFSA deadline for my school change?

The FAFSA is now available on Oct. 1, which is much earlier than prior years, but your school’s deadlines are unlikely to change. It’s important to keep in mind that many schools offer need-based scholarships and grants on a first come, first served basis. This means you should always complete your FAFSA as close as possible to the date it becomes available. Set a FAFSA deadline reminder on your computer, phone, or calendar. Don’t forget this date if you plan on applying for any form of financial aid while attending school. For more info, see the Department of Education’s guide, The 2017-2018 FAFSA: Get Your Dates Straight.

What if there’s a change in my financial situation?

Before 2017-18, the FAFSA used your prior year’s tax returns to determine your financial need and eligibility for government and institutional grants and scholarships. Beginning in the 2017-18 award year, the FAFSA will use your tax information from two years ago. A lot can happen with financial situations in two years. If there’s a significant change in your family’s income or financial need, you can contact your school’s financial aid office for assistance in reporting a change in financial circumstance. Be prepared to clarify any changes or unusual circumstances and include supporting documentation, such as a final paycheck, letter of termination, etc. Remember, for the 2017-18 FAFSA and beyond, use your tax information from two years ago, not the year before.

Since the 2017-18 FAFSA uses the same year’s tax return as the 2016-17 FAFSA, can I paste the 2016-17 FAFSA tax info into my 2017-18 FAFSA?

The short answer is no. Since a lot can change in two years, including amended tax returns, you’ll need to reenter the information. If you choose the FAFSA Renewal, some of the basic information from your 2016-2017 FAFSA will transfer over to your new FAFSA, however, tax information will not. Have a copy of your tax return in front of you for reference as you complete the FAFSA. You may be able to save time by using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.

What if my or my parents’ marital status changed since filing tax returns from two years ago?

The FAFSA will ask for marital status for students and parents as of the day it is completed. If a student or parent is married now, the spouse’s tax information will need to be added to the FAFSA. If a student or parent is divorced now, the spouse’s tax information should not be used.

Simple, right? ;) If you have any questions about the FAFSA, you can go to studentaid.gov/sa/fafsa, fafsa.gov, or call your school’s financial aid office.

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About the author

Blake TaylorBlake Taylor is a lead college counselor at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa. With experience in financial aid and academics, Blake provides a plethora of expertise on the modern college experience.

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