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The New FAFSA Is Coming. Here’s What You Need to Know

Big changes are coming to the 2024-25 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and after more than a year of delays, the revamped form is expected to be released by the U.S. Department of Education on December 31. So, what does that mean for you?

The news is largely good. Both the application and the formulas used to determine aid have been overhauled in accordance with a 2020 law so that low- and middle-income families can more easily navigate the process and qualify for funding. Among other things, students can expect a streamlined form that cuts the maximum number of questions from 108 to 46 and is available in 11 languages instead of just English and Spanish. Some applicants will receive Pell Grant awards automatically.

Still, the U.S. Department of Education is going live with the new application three months later than usual—the FAFSA season typically opens on October 1, with MMC’s priority deadlines for submissions ranging from the fall for prospective students to the spring for current students. Moreover, the Education Department says it will not begin feeding applicants’ information to colleges until late January; in years past, that process took only a few days. As a result, administrators across the country are on high alert for potential bottlenecks and will be working hard to make up for the lost time.

Given the truncated schedule, MMC’s Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management Christine Sneva advises students to take a proactive approach to the FAFSA process and read up on the revised application before its December 31 release. “Students and their families should take the opportunity to learn how the changes may or may not impact them and what information they’ll need before they fill out the form,” she said. “The best thing you can do is start to educate yourself.”

Here are some other steps Sneva recommends families take to navigate the aid process with minimal friction.

  1. Tap the pros for help. Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the coming changes, make an appointment with financial aid counselors in MMC’s Center for Student Services to iron out any concerns you might have. “Working closely with the Financial Aid office is going to be key since they’re going to know the most about how FAFSA changes will impact individuals,” Sneva said.

  2. Submit the FAFSA as soon as you can. Sneva recommends that current students turn in the form as early as January to avoid bumping up against a flurry of applications set to come from first-years in the spring. It will also give students time to make changes if needed. As a general rule, it’s better to file the FAFSA on the early side, anyway, since some programs with limited funding, like federal work-study, are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.
     
  3. File even if you don’t think you need to. “Even if you think you or your family make enough money that you know you’re not Pell-eligible, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t submit a FAFSA,” Sneva said. “The form provides important information that helps a college better understand your situation and the balance between merit and need and any other institutional grants that could be available.”

  4. Follow up. Once you’ve submitted your form, follow up with CSS after a few weeks, Sneva said, and stay in touch with financial aid counselors so you’re aware of any issues.

  5. Be patient. Remember, not only is the application itself delayed, but there may be other delays in the system as information trickles out of the Education Department—and that’ll be true at every school, not just MMC. “Every single college and university is in the same boat,” Sneva said. “However, MMC’s financial aid office will be moving mountains to get students’ aid packages out, and if you work with them and keep the lines of communication open, you’ll head into the next academic year on the right foot.”

Published: December 20, 2023