Students Still Have Time to File the FAFSA

Young man leaning against wall in college

Many parents still on the fence about sending their high school graduate to college this fall may think it is too late to apply for federal student loans.

This is not the case.

In fact, they have until June 30, 2021 to file the FAFSA, otherwise known as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

It’s a technicality in the federal aid cycle that easily gets overlooked by families, especially if they are still debating whether their student will enroll for fall classes.

Under U.S. Department of Education guidelines, the current FAFSA filing season for the 2020-2021 school year started on Oct. 1, 2019 when students could first start filing the paperwork.

But, unbeknownst to many parents, students planning on attending college this fall have until the last day of the school year to file the aid application, or, in this case, until June 30, 2021, whichever comes first. So students still have plenty of time.

Even if they wait until next year to file, for example, they might still qualify for federal grants and loans, which can be applied to cover what they’ve already paid for the fall and spring semesters, according to Nerdwallet, a financial services website. Some schools will allow students to apply the funds to pay for 2021 summer school.

Keep in mind, however, that early financial aid filers tend to get the most money. Moreover, some schools require financial aid paperwork for additional state or institutional aid, and there are deadlines for these applications as well.

Students who attended college for the 2019-2020 academic year have until the end of this month to file the FAFSA. That’s because their FAFSA filing cycle started in October 2018.

This is an unusual financial aid season, given the coronavirus pandemic, meaning late filers shouldn’t give up hope of finding federal money.

While college administrators are expecting more students to need financial aid for the fall 2020 semester, fewer students are actually applying for it, according to an analysis of federal data from the nonprofit National College Attainment Network.

Applications for federal aid from high school seniors dropped below year-earlier levels in mid-March as the coronavirus hit. Since then, the numbers remain down. As of May 8, applications were tracking 3.3% behind last year. That amounts to 66,295 fewer seniors submitting applications, the college network said.

The number of college students seeking to renew financial aid for Pell grants was down 3.3% through April 30.

“People are very uncertain…they feel the expense of college is daunting and are not filling the forms,” said Rhiannon Schade, a managing counselor at Collegewise, an online college application and admissions counseling service.

For a helping hand, Collegewise (www.collegewise . com) and other organizations have been holding more webinars and other programs this spring that focus on financial aid. The National College Attainment Network has posted a list of events on its website (www.ncan. org.)

Without submitting the FAFSA, students are shut out from federal funds. It doesn’t take much effort — perhaps only an hour or two — to complete the FAFSA.


(Article written by Steve Rosen)