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Why You Should Pay Attention to FAFSA and Other Financial Aid Deadlines

By Ryan Laspina
Analyst, Red Flags and External Reviews

To apply for Federal Student Aid (FSA), you must fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You will need to provide detailed information on the FAFSA, but you also need to remain aware of timeframes and deadlines.

Missing a deadline means you will not have the opportunity to receive financial aid for which you might have been eligible. But there is important information to keep in mind for the 2017-2018 federal award year.

Complete Your FAFSA As Early As Possible

To determine your eligibility and to receive FSA for the 2017-2018 Award Year, fill out the FAFSA well before June 30, 2018. The 2017-2018 Award Year officially begins on July 1, 2017.

If you plan to attend college during that award year and also receive FSA, you should submit a FAFSA as soon as possible. That will give you the best chance of getting all the FSA for which you qualify.

Check the FAFSA Website for FAFSA Deadlines in Your State

Some states also rely on the FAFSA for awarding state aid. However, their deadlines can vary significantly. Be sure to review the FAFSA website to find the application deadlines for your state.

For example, in West Virginia, the deadline to fill out the FAFSA and the application for the PROMISE Scholarship was March 1, 2017. Similarly, the deadline for the West Virginia Higher Education Grant Program was April 15, 2017.

In many cases, state deadlines are set much earlier than federal deadlines. If you plan on receiving state aid, you need to apply very early.

Amount of Financial Aid Varies by School

Because institutional financial aid varies by school, contact your school’s financial aid office to find out what scholarships and grants are available and how to apply for them. As with state-based aid, school deadlines are often earlier than federal deadlines. So it’s wise to contact your financial aid office as soon as you start exploring your financial aid options.

The FAFSA Should Be Filled Out Annually

Even if you are not interested in FSA, you should fill out a FAFSA every year. There might be some private scholarships that are available only to students eligible for a Pell Grant, which can only be determined by reviewing the information from the FAFSA. Those dates also vary, so it is important to fill out a FAFSA as early as possible and then search for other financial aid options.

Apply Early for All Financial Aid Options

Starting the financial aid process early is essential if you are to receive all the financial aid for which you are eligible. Even though the FAFSA deadline extends well into 2018, it is advisable to fill out the FAFSA as soon as it becomes available.

In fact, it’s a good idea to start applying for financial aid as soon as you start planning to attend college. So if you plan to attend college in the 2018-2019 award year, start your information-gathering process now.

Ryan Laspina is a Federal Student Aid analyst for the University. He has over five years of experience working in FSA compliance and combating student loan fraud. With a bachelor’s and master’s in business administration from Shepherd University and a minor in English, Ryan has spent most of his adult life in higher education.

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