FAFSA Deadlines, Explained

Many students count on student aid to pay for college and higher education. Whether you use federal aid, federal loans, private student loans or scholarships, you must stay on top of things to keep the money flowing. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is one of the first steps all students looking for financial assistance need to fill out. But like many things, there are FAFSA deadlines you need to be aware of and stick to.

In this article

    What is the FAFSA?

    The FAFSA is a form that prospective and current students in the U.S. fill out annually to apply for federal financial aid for higher education. The form looks at the student’s financial situation to help determine what types of aid and how much aid may be available. In addition to this, many schools and universities use information from the FAFSA to award aid to prospective and current students. If you’re looking for help paying for college, you need to fill out your FAFSA by the deadline.

    Check Your Student Loan Rates

    View our top-rated lenders and find the best rates today. It’s quick and easy.

    [ Related: 15 Ways to Deal With Student Loan Debt ]

    FAFSA opening date and deadline

    One of the most important aspects of filling out your FAFSA is making sure you complete the form by the deadline. Generally, the opening date for the upcoming school year is in October of the prior year. The FAFSA deadline generally is in June of the intended school year. While these generally remain constant, you must check the deadlines and opening dates every year to protect your financial aid.

    For the 2021–2022 school year, the opening date is in October 2020. The FAFSA deadline for the school year is June 30, 2022. Any corrections or updates to your form need to be completed by September 10, 2022.

    While this may seem like you have plenty of time to fill out the FAFSA before federal deadlines, it’s important to note that individual schools and states typically have deadlines much earlier than the federal deadline. For example, Michigan requires the FAFSA to be submitted by March 1, 2021 for the 2021–2022 academic year and other states like Kentucky and Alaska advise that federal aid awards are granted until funds are depleted.

    For this reason, the best course of action is to complete your FAFSA as soon as possible.

    What if I miss the FAFSA deadline?

    It all depends on which deadline you miss. If you miss the federal deadline, you’re going to have to wait until the next school year to reapply for federal student aid. If you miss a school or university’s self-imposed deadlines, you may also be out of luck for getting aid for that year. However, in the latter scenario, you can still fill out the FAFSA and attempt to reach out to the school or university’s financial aid office to see if there are any exceptions possible.

    What do I need to apply for the FAFSA?

    1. Collect the necessary documents and information. To complete your FAFSA, you’ll need your Social Security number, federal income tax returns, bank statements and records of investment (if applicable) and records of untaxed income (if applicable).
    2. Apply for an FSA ID. On the FAFSA website, you’ll need to apply for an FSA ID. This serves as your login and password for filling out your form, checking the status and making any changes. If your parents are helping you fill out the form, they will need their own FSA ID. While it might seem like a good idea just to share an FSA ID, separate IDs are needed for electronic signature purposes.
    3. Know the schools you want to attend. Part of the process of filling out your FAFSA is listing the schools you’re interested in attending. You can list up to 10 schools via the online application. You don’t have to have applied or been accepted to a school to list it.
    4. Check the applicable deadlines. You need to know when the federal deadlines for submitting your form are. Additionally, know the deadlines for the colleges and universities you’re interested in attending. The best course of action is filling out the form as soon as possible.
    5. Fill out the form. Begin filling out your FAFSA as soon as possible. You may have to find additional information, so it’s best not to anticipate you can finish it in one sitting. This is especially important if you’re pushing up against any hard deadlines.

    [ Read: College Financial Guide: Filling Out the FAFSA ]

    What do I do after I submit my FAFSA application?

    Once you complete your FAFSA application, you’ll need to wait for it to be processed. Online applications process in 3–5 days, and paper applications process in 7–10 days. After your form has been processed, start reaching out to the different schools you’re looking to attend. Speak with the financial aid offices to find out if there are any other steps you need to take to qualify for aid.

    Additionally, make sure you start planning to fill any gaps in funding. Depending on your financial need and what’s available, you might not get enough money to fully cover the costs of your education. If that happens, you should start looking into other options like loans, scholarships and employment to fill the gaps.

    [ Read: Here’s How to Apply for Education Grants ]

    Things to consider about the FAFSA

    • File as soon as possible. While filling out forms for financial aid might not be the most exciting thing, getting financial assistance for college is important. The sooner you fill out your FAFSA, the sooner you can start making your financial plans to get your education.
    • Ask when you have questions. Most of the FAFSA is fairly straightforward, but there may be some sections or questions that you don’t completely understand. Instead of guessing on the information, take the time to use the available resources to get a definitive answer.
    • Update when there are changes. If there are any changes to your financial situation, make sure you update those on your form. These may affect the amounts and types of funding you are eligible for.
    • Remember to fill out the FAFSA every year. Your FAFSA application is only good for one school year. Put it in your calendar as a reminder to fill out the form every year. Renewals take much less time as a lot of the important information is pre-populated from previous years.

    [ Read: Eight Common Myths About the FAFSA, Busted ]

    What can I get more information about the FAFSA?

    The best source for more information about all steps of the FAFSA process is StudentAid.gov. The website has an extensive library of articles, frequently asked questions, infographics and resources to help walk you through the process. While getting funding for school may seem challenging, the government works hard to make it as easy as possible.

    We welcome your feedback on this article. Contact us at inquiries@thesimpledollar.com with comments or questions.

    Jason Lee

    Contributing Writer

    Jason Lee is a U.S.-based freelance writer with a passion for writing about dating, banking, tech, personal growth, food and personal finance. As a business owner, relationship strategist, and officer in the U.S. military, Jason enjoys sharing his unique knowledge base and skill sets with the rest of the world. Follow Jason on Facebook here

    Reviewed by

    • Courtney Mihocik
      Courtney Mihocik
      Loans Editor

      Courtney Mihocik is an editor at The Simple Dollar who specializes in personal loans, student loans, auto loans, and debt consolidation loans. She is a former writer and contributing editor to Interest.com, PersonalLoans.org, and elsewhere.