If you’re thinking about when to start filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), a good guideline to remember is that earlier is always better. Although you have until June 30, 2021 to submit your FAFSA for the 2020-2021 school year, it’s a good idea to complete the FAFSA as soon as you can. Here are 6 reasons why.
1. Financial Aid Can Run Out
File the FAFSA early because schools and states have limited amounts of student aid available, and some of it is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. If you wait until the Spring to submit the FAFSA, your state or school could run out of money, and you may miss out on financial aid you otherwise could have received if you submitted your FAFSA earlier.
2. You’re More Likely to Qualify for Grants
You’re more likely to qualify for federal, state, and college-offered grants if you file the FAFSA early. In fact, Saving for College reported that students who fill out the FAFSA between October and December get twice as many grants, on average, as compared with students who file the FAFSA later.
3. Focus on Other Important Tasks for College
Your senior year of high school can be stressful. Filling out the FAFSA early removes a big item from your to-do list so you can focus on other tasks, like submitting college applications, finishing up the school year strong, or applying for scholarships.
4. Comparing Colleges Is Easier
If you complete the FAFSA earlier in the year, colleges will be able to use that information to come up with your financial aid award letter. That will make comparing colleges much easier, as you can quickly compare what each school’s cost will be after applying grants and scholarship awards.
5. Get a Head Start on Your Scholarship Search
Some scholarships offered by companies or organizations will request your FAFSA information, and they often have early deadlines. Completing the FAFSA early will help you as you begin searching for and applying for scholarships, reducing how much you need to take out in student loans.
6. Pursue Other Financial Aid with More Time
Once you complete the FAFSA and start receiving financial aid award letters, you can come up with a comprehensive plan to pay for college.
Your award letter may include a mix of scholarships, grants, and federal student loans. However, there is a chance that the awards may not be enough to cover the total cost of your attendance, including room and board or textbooks. If that’s the case, you’ll have to look into additional financing options, such as outside scholarships or private student loans.
By filing the FAFSA as early as possible, you give yourself more time to research options and create your college financing plan.
Next Steps: Learn how to check your FAFSA status.