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Should You Complete the FAFSA Before or After Acceptance?
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or “FAFSA” as it is known, is the main application students fill out for need-based financial aid. One of the biggest questions about the FAFSA regards timing: should you complete the FAFSA before or after acceptance to your college?
As with most things in the admissions process, timing matters when applying for financial aid. It is true that colleges will not finalize your financial aid package until after you are accepted. Students usually receive award letters at the time that they are formally notified of their college acceptances.
However, students can apply for financial aid with the FAFSA anytime after October 1st. The FAFSA officially closes on June 30th, but keep in mind that individual colleges may have their own FAFSA deadlines.
Is there an advantage to completing the FAFSA early?
Let’s put it this way, there is a disadvantage to completing the FAFSA late and after the deadline. By applying as early as possible, you increase the chances for the maximum amount of financial aid possible.
So even though you won’t immediately receive your financial aid package, this allows an opportunity to apply for all possible financial aid.
Students may list up to 10 colleges on the FAFSA
When you are completing the FAFSA, you’ll see that you can only list 10 colleges at a time. Luckily, it is really easy to add more colleges if you are applying for admission to 11 or more schools.
Students should also list any in-state public colleges first on their FAFSA. This is because some states award additional grants and financial aid for in-state residents.
Don’t forget about the other financial aid applications
You might come across other financial aid applications that colleges require. One of the most common applications is the CSS Profile which is managed by the College Board.
Also read: CSS Profile Vs. FAFSA: What you need to know
Be aware of state and college deadlines
Another reason to complete your FAFSA ahead of time is that colleges and states may have deadlines earlier than the federal deadline of June 30. Contact the financial aid offices of the schools you’re considering to find out their deadline for the FAFSA. Additionally, make sure you’re aware of the deadline for your state. Because of the variation in state and college deadlines, you should fill out the FAFSA as soon as possible after October 1 to ensure you don’t miss out on available aid.
Apply for the FAFSA as soon as possible
The bottom line for students is that it makes sense to apply for financial aid with the FAFSA as soon as possible. Students should not wait until receiving colleges acceptance to complete the FAFSA. Instead, they should aim to complete and submit the application shortly after the FAFSA opens up on October 1st. This is the best way to qualify for the most financial aid possible so that you can graduate with little or no student loan debt.
See also: How to Complete the 2022-2023 FAFSA