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Carrington College Blog

What the FAFSA®?

September 22, 2016

Going to college next year? That’s pretty awesome, and you probably can’t wait to get started! But if you’re still trying to figure out how you’re going to pay for it (#yawn), you need to learn all about the FAFSA® (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). There are some changes coming for the next year, and we want to make sure you know what’s up.

Stay with us…we know this isn’t the latest Kardashian drama, but it is important. We get that paying for school[1] isn’t something you want to spend a lot of time thinking about but you have to, and because of changes to FAFSA®, you don’t want to put it off until the last minute.

If you’re thinking ‘what’s FAFSA and why should I care’, read this first…but make sure you come back once you’re done. We’re going to tell you what’s new with FAFSA® this year, and why you shouldn’t wait to figure it all out.

Ready? Ok, here’s what’s changing.

You Can Apply Earlier

Credit: Gustavo Frazao/Shutterstock

You used to not be able to turn in your FAFSA® until January 1st of the year you were going to school, but not anymore! Now you get a three month head start. That’s right people, October is the new FAFSA® application start date for applying for the 2017-18 school year. Still deciding where you want to go to school? No biggie. You can still apply even if you aren’t 100% sure where you’re going to go.

I’ve Got Plenty of Time – Why Apply Now?

Because some schools and states award aid based on the date a student completes the FAFSA®. If you wait to turn in your application, your chances of getting some help could get smaller the longer you wait. College finance is something you need to deal with at some point, so try to get to the front of the line!

No 2016 Tax Return, No Problem!

One problem with the old system was that some people put off applying early because they thought they (or their parents) had to file their taxes first. They worried they had to know all the tax stuff on the form for sure before filling it out. That’s not the case – a lot of people didn’t realize that the financial info on the form could be estimated. But that’s changing too…

Credit: Scott Maxwell LuMaxArt/Shutterstock

For the 2017-18 school year, you (and your family) can use the info from your 2015 tax return, not 2016. If you fill out your FAFSA® online  (which is what they recommend) you might even be able to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to help fill out the form. That way you don’t have to worry about messing up the info by putting it in wrong! This way-cool tool transfers the tax return information straight into your FAFSA® from the IRS website! #winning

What You Need to Know

Credit: Keith Bell/Shutterstock
  • You can fill out the form online (quickest/easiest way), or fill out a PDF version, or ask for a paper form be sent to you. #snailmail
  • You’ll need a federal student aid ID (FSA ID) to sign your FAFSA®. Another reason to get moving, it can take up to three days before you can use your FSA ID to sign your application.
  • Don’t wait till you’ve picked your school. You can list a school (like Carrington) on your form, even if you haven’t decided where you’re going yet.
  • The financial aid year doesn’t run January to December…that would be too easy! It goes from July 1st through June 30th of the next year. So if the program you’re thinking about runs across those dates, you’ll have to fill out the FAFSA® for every year that you’re looking for aid.
  • Apply even if you didn’t get financial aid last year. If you qualify, you might be able to use both grants and loans to pay your tuition.

Still a Little Confused?

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We don’t blame you!

Dealing with student loans and forms like FAFSA can blow your mind – especially if it’s the first time you’ve had to deal with stuff like this. We’ve been doing it for years, so let us help. The Student Finance Department at Carrington College is here for you every step of the way. Visit for more information.

[1] Student loans, grants and scholarships are available to those who qualify.