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Are you or your kids planning to head off to college during the 2020–2021 academic year? The good news is, the U.S. Department of Education’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) makes it relatively easy to apply for federal and state, and many institutions’ financial aid opportunities in a single session. This “one-stop shopping” certainly beats having to submit separate applications for each source of funding!

The catch? While you are generally required to submit your FAFSA application for the 2020–2021 academic year by June 30, 2020, you are permitted to do so any time after October 1, 2019. If you’re busy with a million other things – and who isn’t? – you might be tempted to let your application slide until, say, after the holidays. Don’t delay. The sooner you apply for FAFSA after October 1, the more likely your efforts will pay off. 

As reported recently by publisher and VP of Research Mark Kantrowitz, “Students who file the FAFSA during the first three months tend to get twice as much grants, on average, as compared with students who file the FAFSA later.”

This caveat applies to the federal level on down. While some types of federal loans and grants may still be around and funded by the time late-comers apply for them in the spring, other types can dry up earlier on. 

In addition, many states operate on a first come, first served basis, granting their awards after October 1, until the funds are gone. Others have application cut-offs earlier than June 30, again warranting a timely FAFSA application to qualify for their funds. 

In Virginia, applicants are directed to check with a financial aid administrator for guidance and potential additional forms. You can look up other states’ requirements here. Similarly, individual colleges may have earlier deadlines if you would like to be given “priority consideration” for their own financial aid funds.

Details and fine print aside, why not maximize your odds of qualifying for every possible financial aid dollar available, especially if often all it takes is one timely act? I suggest following up on your FAFSA application as soon as October 1 rolls around. 

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