In previous years, high school seniors and their parents filled out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, FAFSA, beginning in January before graduation.
Starting this year, families can begin filing the FAFSA form on October 1, 2016, just as their children enter their senior year in high school. The change is to let seniors know earlier how much they might expect in federal financial aid before they choose colleges to which to apply.
The FAFSA calculates federal student aid (Pell Grants) and the student’s and parents’ expected contribution for college expenses. Federal aid is based primarily on the parents’ income tax filings.
In the past, those would have been the prior-year taxes. For students entering college in fall 2017, that would be 2016 taxes if the FAFSA applications were still scheduled to begin in January 2017.
Federal student aid deadline nicknamed PPY FAFSA
The new October FAFSA uses prior-prior year taxes, 2015, and can automatically pull the parents tax returns from the IRS. That is how they are able to move the timeline up three months.
The FAFSA allows students to name 10 colleges to which they want FAFSA to send their federal financial aid information.
Once the college matches the FAFSA award to the student’s college application, the college evaluates the student for admission. If accepted, the college adds its own financial aid offers and mails out an acceptance letter with financial aid offer. Colleges shoot for March or April to make these offers to high school seniors. This, of course, depends on when the student actually applies to the school.
If a high school senior get acceptance letters from 10 colleges with comparable financial aid offers in April, and all give the students until May to choose, that is not enough time make a good decision.
While 10 acceptance letters are not typical, the October FAFSA, or Prior-Prior Year (PPY) FAFSA, aims to give students more time to find the best ‘fit’ before filling out college applications.
Shelley Owens 16 years as a journalist, 10 years as a jobs and education columnist, one year as a curmudgeon trying to save prospective college students from overpaying for college. Now available for reading on all devices on Kobo: A Degree Fast! For pennies on the dollar 12 Secret Strategies to Help Your Child Get a Degree in Half the Time - at Half the Cost to You