When to File the FAFSA

It’s the big day: the FAFSA is here! So, you need to file it right away, right? Not exactly.

First, schools generally won’t do anything with your FAFSA until they have an application from your student, so the earliest you need it done is the end of this month if you’re applying Early Decision or Early Action. Remember that the main factor that you can influence at this point in the FAFSA is your assets, since income is from 2018’s tax return and assets are on the date you file. So here are some factors to consider:

  • When do you make big monthly payments such as your mortgage, rent or credit card bill? You want to file after those funds have left your checking account.
  • When do you get paid? You might file the day before pay day to minimize the balance in your checking account.
  • Do you have any stock options or RSUs vesting or ESPP shares coming in in the near future? If so, you’ll want to file before those are yours because all are counted as assets.
  • Expecting a bonus? If so, file before that hits your bank account.
  • Will you be making IRA or charitable contributions for 2019? If so, make the contributions before filing the FAFSA to keep those dollars off your balance sheet.

The FAFSA is not the Avengers: You don’t have to be there on opening night.

3 thoughts on “When to File the FAFSA

  1. Hi. Is there a difference fornthe sense of urgency for retiring students? We will not qualify for cal grant A (2.98 ugh) from senior year and wenwont wuaify for cal grant B (71k family of four) so getting first in line for grants is not an issue. But does it matter for direct loan amounts? (They gave us nearly nothing in direct loans and gave us consumer loan options which I thought was odd…why do they not max out the direct loan option fot a student first before offering them non-direct/consumer loan options- doesn’t seem ethical. They only offered 6k in direct loans for an in state school costing 19k with room and board (8k tuition) our efc last year was 10.5….seems way off. We filed immediately.
    Anyhow hoping waiting a bit won’t matter, but want to knownifnit will in a case like ours. Thank you in advance for any feedback.

    1. Yes, it’s different for returning students. Since you already know your status re state grants, check with your school about when to file. (My daughter’s school said “no rush, do it after the holidays” but that’s not necessarily every school.) As far as direct student loan amounts you were offered, there is a maximum annual loan amount for students. For next year it’s $5,500 for 1st year, $6,500 for 2nd year, and $7,500 each year after. There are Parent PLUS loans in addition to that, or private loans. Sorry your school is gapping you on aid.

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