Jan 26, 2015

2015 FAFSA deadlines are likely to come way sooner than you think

It’s fair to say that most every college and university in the United States has a clearly posted priority financial aid deadline by which the FAFSA should be filed for students to have the best possible chance of receiving both institutional and federal aid.
Because most of these deadlines are either on or before March 1st, students and their parents must act early in the New Year—often before tax returns are filed with the federal government—to ensure priority consideration for financial aid.
And it's important to try to meet these deadlines.  For example, the Howard University website specifically states, “If you apply for Financial Aid by the priority deadline, you may qualify for a greater amount of gift assistance.”

To underscore the importance of submitting the FAFSA sooner rather than later, even if it means estimating income and taxes to be paid, the following is a list of local priority financial aid deadlines:
You can research individual deadlines by simply going to a college or university website and entering “FAFSA” or “FAFSA deadline” in the search function. Only the most poorly constructed websites will fail to pop up a link to either an admissions or a financial aid web page clearly stating the priority deadline by which you should file your FAFSA. Some will even give you a few good reasons why this is so important.

Or you can use a nifty new tool created by a group of Intuit employees, on their own time, called InstaTuition.  While this site doesn’t (so far) give information on Early Decision or Early Action deadlines if they are different from Regular Decision, the search tool is quick and VERY easy to use.  Note there’s no requirement to provide personal information, even your email address, to search for deadlines.

And just to prove the point about how varied and early FAFSA deadlines can be, here are a few more:

Many states also have FAFSA deadlines that are entirely separate from but usually after institutional dates. A handy tool for researching individual state deadlines is provided on the FAFSA website. Locally, the State of Maryland has posted March 1st as its deadline, and the District of Columbia uses June 30th. Virginia is noncommittal and refers applicants to individual financial aid administrators (Hint: you may notice a pattern of March 1st as a deadline for the Virginia public colleges and universities listed above).

Filing the FAFSA by the priority deadlines and promptly responding to any requests for additional documentation helps ensure you’ll receive your financial aid letters at about the same time you receive admissions decisions. 

Note that it takes the FAFSA processor 1 to 2 weeks to get information to individual colleges and universities—if the FAFSA is filed electronically. If you use the paper application, the turnaround can take from 3 to 4 weeks. And delays could be longer if your application is randomly selected for a more in depth review.

Remember you do NOT have to be admitted to a college or university before submitting your FAFSA. You CAN file using last year’s tax return to estimate income and taxes—provided you remember to amend. If you have any questions or need additional assistance, contact the FAFSA on the Web Consumer Service either online or by calling 1-800-433-3243 (1-800-4-FED-AID).

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