The 2019-2020 FAFSA is Now Available! Here’s What You Need To Know

Flickr user Garrett Coakley

Flickr user Garrett Coakley

As of October 1st, the 2019-2020 FAFSA is officially available! Over the past few years, several changes have been made to the application process. Here is everything you need to know about the alterations that have been made, what this means for you, and why you should file ASAP.

College Finder – FAFSA is Now Available!

When to File (and Why!)

FAFSA stands for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. By applying for FAFSA early, you increase your chances of receiving aid from your school since the money is typically distributed on a first come, first serve basis. In the past it has been released on January 1st, but nowadays students can file as early as October 1st . This is in hopes that colleges will be able to send out award letters sooner and give students a better lead time to compare the cost of colleges in order to make an informed decision.


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Prior-Prior Year

All income information filed for the 2019-2020 FAFSA will come from the “prior-prior year” as opposed to the “prior year”. Essentially, this means that you will report your income information from two years ago rather than from the past year. The reason for this change is that it takes too long for prospective students to calculate this past year’s financial information, submit the application on the first of the year and get their reward letters back. By using information from two years ago that has already been filed, this speeds up the application process.

Specifically, you can now use your 2017 tax returns to file for the 2019-2020 FAFSA. With the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, you can have your 2017 taxes automatically reported on your FAFSA for 2019-2020 making for a more convenient process.

Rule Changes Affect Colleges

Students are allowed to send their FAFSA to 10 prospective schools. In the past, the schools would receive the list of all the other colleges and universities that a student was applying to, but this is no longer the case. It was speculated that one’s list of schools effected a college’s decision on how to distribute their financial aid. With the removal of this bias, it is hoped that financial aid distribution will become more objective.

New FAFSA Mobile App

The Department of Education has been working on FAFSA redesigns, and their efforts have resulted in a free FAFSA mobile app. Called myStudentAid, the app allows students to file the FAFSA right on their phone. The process has been streamlined and made more user-friendly in an effort to make student aid more readily available and easy to understand.

What is the CSS Profile?

The CSS Profile is short for College Scholarship Service Profile. It is distributed by the United States College Board that enables students to apply for financial aid. As with the FAFSA, it asks you to report student and parent income, but it is much more detailed. Typically, FAFSA is known for the assistance of low income students whereas the CSS spans across wider and often higher income levels which is why it is used frequently with Ivy League schools. In the past, the CSS profile was used for early financial aid application since the FAFSA wasn’t available until January 1st. The prior-prior rules that apply to FAFSA now also apply to the CSS profile, allowing for award letters to be distributed even sooner.

If you want another way to compare the cost of schools, remember that College Raptor provides a FREE College Match Tool that allows you to estimate the net price of colleges as early as you want!


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