The FAFSA for next school year will be available starting Oct. 1, so now is a good time to start getting ready for it. A few key points:

  • The first F in FAFSA is “Free.” That means if you’re being charged to fill it out, you’re on the wrong site. The real FAFSA is available here. If you don’t see “” at the end of the URL, you’re in the wrong place.
  • You and your student each need an FSA ID in order to complete the FAFSA. Now is a good time to get one, here.
  • There is no requirement that you fill out the FAFSA right away. Early FAFSA is intended as a convenience, so that families can know their EFC in advance and have financial aid information available in parallel to acceptance information. Many schools have the same FAFSA due dates despite its being available earlier.
  • The IRS Data Retrieval tool will be working once again when the FAFSA goes live. You can read about security enhancements here.

It may be in your best interest to file sooner, or it may be in your best interest to wait. Some things haven’t changed: your assets are counted on the day you file, for example. If you’re expecting a lump sum that might increase your EFC, file before you get it. Or if you need to make a 2018 retirement savings contribution to move some assets out of the calculation, wait until after Jan. 1.

Many students, particularly athletes attending DIII schools or others in programs with aid dollars attached, are asked to complete the FAFSA early so that the school can determine its budget for that program. If this might be the case for your student and you’re hoping to wait, check with the coach or program administrator now to see what your options are.