There have been some significant changes for our 2017 high school graduates. Not only has the SAT has been overhauled, but the FAFSA will be available October 1 instead of January 1. Additionally, the “prior, prior” year’s income will be collected instead of the current year as before. This means that all students applying for financial aid for the 2017-18 school year will need to submit 2015 income information.
The goal here is to reduce some of the pressure. Students will have more time to understand the financial aid options and apply well ahead of state or school deadlines. In the past, most schools have released financial aid awards in March or April leaving little time to compare financial aid packages in order to make a sound decision before May 1 (decision day). We are hoping with the earlier availability of the FAFSA, colleges will make the necessary changes to their processing timelines. Of course, this will be up to the colleges.
Some things will remain the same. The FAFSA will still need to be submitted every year as many things can change in a household including family income or the number of students enrolled in college. Financial aid awards will be adjusted accordingly from year to year. Also, students can still be selected for verification. In this case, the student will be required to submit additional documentation that the information provided on the FAFSA is accurate.
As with any change, there are questions left to be answered. It would be wise to contact the schools your student is interested in to find out if they will be changing their processing time and when you can expect to hear about financial aid awards.