Another FAFSA Delay. What to Do While You Wait:

On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Education announced another delay in the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) timeline. Over the last several years, colleges would begin to receive students’ FAFSA information in Late November. For 2024 filers, the department initially indicated the data would be transmitted in late January due to a major overhaul which provided a much simpler form for students and families. This week’s announcement means colleges will not receive the data until the first half of March, creating another four-to-six-week delay.

Correcting a $1.8 Billion Mistake:
The primary cause of this delay is the Department of Education’s commitment to rectify $1.8 billion calculating error to ensure that lower-income students are not negatively affected. While necessary, the resulting delay will be a major challenge for college financial aid offices because it compresses their timelines for sending out crucial financial aid offers by as much as 85%. The FAFSA overhaul has introduced uncertainties for financial aid offices, given that this year’s data is a result of a massive overhaul.

More Uncertainty for Students and Families:
Financial aid offices need time to understand the new datasets and ensure the accuracy of the financial aid process. However, the new timeline offers little room for error, especially for under-resourced institutions lacking funding, staffing, or technology capabilities. My estimate is that most schools will not be able to provide final financial aid awards until at least April, leaving students with less than a month to make crucial decisions about their college commitments. I also would not be surprised if colleges move their commitment deadlines to June or even July.

What to Do While You Wait:
Unfortunately, there isn’t anything that families can do to get their financial information to their schools more quickly. But I do have a few pieces of advice:
1. Apply for as many scholarships as possible to help you pay for whatever portion of the college cost remains after your colleges process your FAFSA. Use our tips to ensure that you get at least your fair share.

2. Families can utilize the “net price calculator” provided by each school as a valuable stop-gap measure. Every school is required to publish this tool on their website to offer an estimate of the true cost of attendance after factoring in grants, scholarships, and other aid. While it may not replace the official financial aid award letter, the net price calculator empowers students and families to make more informed decisions about the affordability of different institutions.

3. Say the Serenity Prayer whenever you start to get anxious or angry with this whole process, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

This proactive approach can help you navigate the waiting period until official financial aid details are available. As always, Complete College Advising is here to help answer questions and remove as much uncertainty as possible.

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