FAFSA gives you access to federal grants, loans and work study opportunities, so it’s important to fill it out in a timely manner. That’s easier than ever this year: You can download the myStudentAid app (iOS and Android) and use it to fill out the form and view all of your loan information, which is particularly useful for low income students who might not have access to an internet-connected computer at home. There are different settings for students, parents and preparers.
Even if you don’t think you’ll qualify for a grant, work-study or other need-based aid, you should fill out the FAFSA. That’s how you’ll qualify for federal student loans (which are preferable to private loans), and for aid from some private colleges as well. “There is no explicit income cutoff. And different types of aid have different awarding criteria,” Mark Kantrowitz, a college admissions and financial aid expert, told U.S. News. In fact, students who don’t file miss out on an average $9,741.05 in aid, reports CNBC.
While the application will remain open for 18 months, each state has their own deadline for submitting the forms, and some states (including Illinois, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Vermont and Washington) award aid on a first-come, first-served basis until it runs out. So if you’re interested in a work-study program, for example, you should try to fill out the form as early as possible. That said, it’s possible to apply through the end of June 2020 and receive some Pell Grants or federal student loans retroactively for the 2019-2020 school year.
And remember: You have to refile FAFSA each year to continue to receive financial aid. So even if you were awarded a grant for this school year, you should file again.