College students and rising freshmen planning to attend college in the fall are likely concerned about how they’ll pay for their college education. Since tuition costs have risen steadily in recent years, families have had to sacrifice and save for college.
One strategy that many American families use to pay for college is filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known as the FAFSA. This application provides information about household income, parental contributions, and other financial data that helps the federal government award financial aid to students.
FAFSA deadlines, explained
When it comes to college, preparation ahead of time is important. Preparing to apply for college starts years in advance because students have to earn the grades to qualify for certain schools. Likewise, families need to prepare financially long before the student starts college. Check the FAFSA deadlines closely to maximize your potential aid award.
FAFSA opens up to applications on October 1 of the year prior to the award year and closes at the end of June in the given award year.
For the 2020–2021 academic award year, the FAFSA was open from October 1, 2019, until June 30, 2021.
For the 2021–2022 academic award year, the FAFSA is open from October 1, 2020, until June 30, 2022.
What to do if you missed the FAFSA deadline
If you missed the deadline to apply for federal funding for the 2020–2021 academic year, you should still complete the FAFSA. Funding is limited, so apply as soon as possible. Individuals who submit after the deadline will be considered after the applications that were submitted on time.
If you need to make any corrections or updates to the FAFSA, you can submit them by the fall. For the 2020–2021 year, updates are due by September 11, 2021. For the 2021–2022 year, updates are due by September 10, 2022.
Do states have different FAFSA deadlines?
The Department of Education notes on its website that although the federal FAFSA deadline is June 30, states might have earlier deadlines for their own state financial aid. Specific educational institutions also can follow their own timeline for financial aid as well.
Individual states and colleges can use their own deadlines but need applicants’ FAFSA information to make financial award decisions. Whenever possible, check on state and college FAFSA deadlines to ensure that you get the maximum amount of aid from all of the sources. The federal aid website lists state deadlines as well as more information.
Alternative college funding options
College students and their families can branch out beyond federal government aid to finance their education. While student loans and grants are important for many students, aid amounts are limited and won't always cover all of the expenses each semester.
One way to help ease the burden of college expenses is to find employment with a company that offers some level of tuition reimbursement or other benefits for college students. For example, FedEx and UPS both offer tuition assistance to employees. Starbucks also provides a program to help with tuition for employees seeking a first-time bachelor’s degree.