For FAFSA, Apply Sooner Than You Think


By Robert Fezza and Steve Siders

The good news for parents and their college-bound kids: The U.S. Department of Education’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) makes it relatively easy to apply for federal, state, and many college and university financial aid opportunities in a single session. This “one-stop shopping” certainly beats having to submit separate applications for each source of funding!

While you are generally required to submit your FAFSA application for the 2020–2021 academic year by June 30, 2020, you are permitted to do so any time after October 1, 2019. If you’re busy with a million other things—and who isn’t? – you might be tempted to let your application slide until, say, after the holidays. We advise against doing so. The sooner you apply for FAFSA after October 1, the more likely your efforts will pay off.

As reported recently by SavingforCollege.com publisher and VP of Research Mark Kantrowitz, “Students who file the FAFSA during the first three months tend to get twice as much grants, on average, as compared with students who file the FAFSA later” (April 12, 2019).

This caveat applies to the federal level on down. “While federal student loans and the Federal Pell Grant function like an entitlement, federal campus-based aid is more limited,” says Kantrowitz. For example, federal funds for work-study programs and other opportunities come from a single “pie,” which can end up being consumed before late-comers arrive at the table.

In addition, many states operate on a first-come, first-served basis. These states begin granting their awards after October 1, until the funds are gone. Other states have application cut-offs earlier than June 30, again warranting a timely FAFSA application to qualify for their funds. Similarly, individual colleges may have earlier deadlines if you would like to be given “priority consideration” for their own financial aid funds.

This is one window of opportunity worth leaping through as soon as it opens. To hit the ground running, you don’t even need to wait to obtain or renew your FSA ID, which will facilitate completing your FAFSA application as soon as October 1 arrives.

One more heads up – the Department of Education’s FAFSA application instructions emphasize: “One thing you don’t need for the FAFSA® form is money! The FAFSA form is FREE, so if a website or mobile app asks you to pay to fill it out, you’re not dealing with the official FAFSA site or the official myStudentAid app.”

Given the costs involved, a well-crafted strategy to pay for higher education can pay for itself many times over. Life is a journey. Navigate it wisely.

Robert Fezza, CFP® and Steve Siders, CFP® own Odyssey Personal Financial Advisors, 500 Sun Valley Drive, Suite A-6, Roswell, GA. Their firm specializes in working with people who are serious about making progress toward financial goals. Odyssey manages portfolios greater than $250,000. 770-992-4444, Visit their site at www.odysseypfa.comOdyssey. Securities offered through Cetera Financial Specialists LLC, member FINRA/SIPC. Advisory services offered through Cetera Investment Advisers LLC. Cetera entities are under separate ownership from any other named entity.