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What does the 2024-25 FAFSA® delay mean for students

    The 2024-25 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) — which students must file to access most aid for college or graduate school — was launched on December 30th, 2023 (almost three months later than the FAFSA’s typical launch date each year).

    So why was the FAFSA® delayed? And what does this year’s delay mean for students?

    Continue reading as we dive into these questions and more about the delay.

    Why was the 2024-25 FAFSA® delayed?

    Typically, the FAFSA® is released on October 1st of each year, but the form needed to access aid for the 2024-25 academic year was postponed until it soft-launched on December 30, 2023.

    The application was delayed because of the FAFSA® Simplification Act passed by Congress, which led the U.S. Department of Education to overhaul the FAFSA® process by shortening the application and making other changes, which caused the 2024-25 application’s release to be delayed.

    What does the delay mean for students?

    This year’s delay could potentially cause several issues for students seeking to fill out the FAFSA® to determine their eligibility for federal financial aid and other types of aid. Those potential issues could include:

    • The delay might provide less time for high school counselors to help students with the financial aid process, including guidance on the new FAFSA® form, than was available in previous years.
    • The delay might give students less time to figure out if they can afford college and if they should apply. For instance, students have historically received confirmation of their Federal Pell Grant eligibility between three days to three weeks after filing the FAFSA®. This year, that information won’t be provided to students until late January 2024 at the earliest. Because of this delay, it might impact how students make decisions without access to this information.
    • This will likely delay the time it takes all students who file the FAFSA® to receive their financial aid award letters from schools.
    • It might be a disadvantage to prospective first-time students in particular. May 1 is the universally recognized decision day for prospective first-time students for most colleges and universities. This deadline is imposed by most colleges and universities across the U.S. for when prospective first-year students must accept offers of admission and send enrollment deposits. The delay in financial award letters could mean a condensed timeline for students to decide which college will be the most affordable to meet this May 1 deadline.
    • This could disadvantage some students from receiving first come, first served financial aid opportunities, such as some forms of state financial aid, which have their own deadlines.
    • The delayed rollout could potentially dissuade some students from filling out the FAFSA® because some have found the rollout of this year's application confusing.

    Although the 2024-25 application doesn’t close until June 30, 2025, state and scholarship deadlines may be much earlier, and for that reason, along with a host of other reasons, filing the form earlier rather than later could potentially be advantageous to students.

    What’s new about the 2024-25 FAFSA® form

    While the delayed rollout of this year’s form might prove confusing for some students, the form itself is aimed to be simplified. See below for some changes to the FAFSA® so you can prepare yourself if you’ll be filling it out.

    • The FAFSA® application will now have about 36 questions for most filers, compared to around 108 from previous years.
    • Students and parents will now see different questions related to their roles. For example, if you’re a student, you’ll only be able to answer questions about yourself; the same applies to parents. Parents and students must have completed their portion of the form to submit the FAFSA® if the student is a dependent.
    • Students and parents won’t be able to access their online FAFSA® form without an FSA ID that now needs to be created before beginning the application.
    • The U.S. Department of Education is now requiring consent from filers to automatically access tax information from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) through a data transfer to be eligible for federal financial aid.
    • Students can list up to 20 schools on the online FAFSA® now (up from 10 in previous iterations). Students are limited to 10 schools on the paper form.

    What happens after you submit the 2024-25 FAFSA®

    After you complete your FAFSA®, you’ll receive an email confirming that the U.S. Department of Education has received your FAFSA® along with preliminary information related to your eligibility for federal student aid. This will include your estimated Student Aid Index (SAI) and estimated eligibility for the Federal Pell Grant.

    Once the schools you list on your FAFSA® receive your information, they’ll provide you with personalized aid information. Your schools likely won’t be able to answer any questions about your financial aid eligibility or status until they receive your FAFSA® form.

    You’ll receive an email once your FAFSA® information has been sent to your schools, along with information about when you can access your FAFSA® Submission Summary on StudentAid.gov.    

    Your FAFSA® Submission Summary will include your official SAI calculation and Federal Pell Grant eligibility. You’ll also be able to check the status of your FAFSA® form on StudentAid.gov beginning in late January if you’ve filed.

    From there, you’ll eventually receive financial aid award letters from the schools you’ve been accepted to detailing what aid they can provide you with, if any. This might include federal financial aid and other types of aid, like institutional scholarships.

    Important financial aid deadlines for students to know

    You should note down three deadlines: the college, state, and federal deadlines for financial aid.

    Federal financial aid deadline

    The federal deadline to submit the FAFSA® for the 2024-25 academic year is June 30, 2025.

    College deadlines

    Typically, the deadline to complete your FAFSA® form to meet college deadlines is earlier than the official FAFSA® deadline. FAFSA® deadlines for the specific schools you’re applying to can be found on schools' websites. If you want to increase your chances of getting as much financial aid as possible, it’s usually a good idea to submit your FAFSA® by the school’s priority deadline.

    State deadlines

    When it comes to state financial aid deadlines, each state has its own deadline, so it’s essential to make a note of your state’s deadline so you can get your FAFSA® submitted in time, as some state-based financial aid is first come, first served. Check the U.S. Department of Education’s website to see the deadline for your state.

    Final thoughts

    Although the 2024-25 FAFSA® involves fewer questions and is meant to be a simplified form, many students and their families are facing condensed timelines to make decisions relating to financial aid because of its delayed release this year. Don’t hesitate to lean on any resources at your disposal, like college counselors, for any guidance you might need when filing this new version of the FAFSA®.