Navigating FAFSA Changes: Now is the Time to Prepare
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a critical step for many students seeking financial assistance to pursue higher education. For the upcoming academic year, there have been significant changes to the FAFSA timeline, with the application period delayed by Federal Student Aid until December. While this shift may initially seem like a reprieve, it underscores the importance of early preparation. Today, we'll explore the key FAFSA changes, discuss their implications and offer guidance on how students and their families can make the most of this extra time.
Understanding the FAFSA Changes
Traditionally, the FAFSA application period opened on October 1st each year, meaning many current college students would be renewing their FAFSA forms this October. However, recent changes to the form have pushed the opening date to sometime in December, altering the timeline for students to apply for federal financial aid.
While you can’t file the FAFSA right now, there are many things you can do to prepare for when the FAFSA is released.
October 9-13, 2023, is FAFSA Preparedness Week in Iowa. During this week and over the coming weeks until the form is released, students and families can take advantage of the extra time to organize tax information, gather necessary documents and ensure accuracy in their financial details. Most importantly, students and parents can get their FSA ID username and passwords setup and verified.
The FSA ID, or Federal Student Aid ID, is a username and password that is used in the financial aid process to electronically sign Federal Student Aid documents such as the FAFSA. Part of the changes to the FAFSA now require the FSA ID be set up and verified BEFORE filing the FAFSA. Verification can take up to five days, so now is a great time to get started on this process.
ICAN, an educational nonprofit specializing in career and college planning, has a team of student success advisors to help families through this process. ICAN has put together resources and will be hosting events across the state throughout October, November and December to assist families in the FSA ID process. To learn about the FSA ID process, you can visit ICANsucceed.org/fsaid.
Preparing to File the FAFSA
In addition to the FSA ID, students and families should begin collecting necessary financial documents, including tax returns and W-2 forms, in advance of the FAFSA opening date. For a complete list of needs documents visit ICANsucceed.org/whattobring.
Ensure that all information is accurate and up to date to facilitate a smoother application process.
Filing the FAFSA
Once the FAFSA is available, families wanting assistance can find free assistance events through the FAFSA Ready Iowa program. This program coordinates events across Iowa to provide families with assistance and guidance through the financial aid process. Check with your school counselor to see if your school is hosting an event this year or visit ICANsucceed.org/fafsareadyia.
You can also schedule directly with an ICAN advisor either in-person or virtually by visiting ICANsucceed.org/apt. ICAN will begin scheduling FAFSA appointments in mid-November.
The FAFSA changes, including the delay until December, present an opportunity for students and their families to approach the financial aid application process with greater preparation and clarity. By taking proactive steps to gather necessary documents, explore financial aid options and create a solid financial plan, students can position themselves for success in their educational journeys. Now is the time to prepare, ensuring a smoother FAFSA application process and a more secure foundation for future academic endeavors.
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