There appears to be a fair amount of confusion around the upcoming FAFSA. To recap, there has been one big change for the 2017-2018 school year: the FAFSA will be available Oct. 1, 2016, instead of Jan. 1, 2017. That results in another big change: going forward, the FAFSA will use “prior-prior” year income data. For example, 2015’s income will be used for the FAFSA completed in fall of 2016 for the school year starting fall of 2017. No more updating your FAFSA after you file taxes.
Besides the planning benefits of using income data from two years ago, this should enable students and families to have a better sense of their financial position before applying to schools, not after.
And just to be clear, since it seems that this is a huge source of the confusion: You will file a FAFSA for 2017-2018 using income tax data from 2015. You will not simply use the previous year’s FAFSA. Sorry if that’s bad news. Here’s some good news: Once you’ve filed your first FAFSA, in subsequent years you just udpate that data.