Free FAFSA Guide
Each year, the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) goes through a variety of changes and updates to make the filing process simpler. This page provides some historical background on the forms from the past few years, and summarizes major updates to color, wording, and format.
2017-2018 FAFSA Changes
2017-2018 FAFSA Form
- Students are now able to submit a FAFSA® earlier. Students have been able to file a 2017–18 FAFSA since Oct. 1, 2016, rather than beginning on Jan. 1, 2017. This gives students more time to complete the FAFSA, and potentially more time to compare aid offers from colleges.
- Students now report earlier income information. Beginning with the 2017–18 FAFSA, students are required to report income information from an earlier tax year. For example, on the 2017–18 FAFSA, students (and parents, as appropriate) must report their 2015 income information, rather than their 2016 income information.
2016-2017 FAFSA Changes
2016-2017 FAFSA Form
- Improved the Accuracy of IRA and Pension Data
- Edited to Prevent Same Identifiers for Parent 1 and Parent 2
- Required Entry of Marital Status Date When Marital Status Changes
- Included Instructions for Reporting Net Worth
- Clarified FAFSA Questions and Instructions
2015-2016 FAFSA Changes
2015-2016 FAFSA Form
- Added new question for foster youth to the online FAFSA but not the paper/PDF FAFSAs.
- Clarified the definition of parent to include people identified as legal parents on the student’s birth certificate, even if the parent is not a biological or adoptive parent.
- Clarified the definition of parent to exclude widowed stepparents.
- Clarified the definition of separated parents.
- Clarified that the student’s sex is the sex at birth.
- A new FSA ID will be replacing the FSA PIN in Spring 2015.
- Added notes for DACA and for non-custodial parent owners of 529 college savings plans.
- Removed the prefilled “@” from email address fields, to provide added flexibility.
- Excludes siblings in U.S. Military Academies from the parents’ Number in Household field.
- Added instructions to Pacific Islanders to emphasize that they should use the same pseudo-Social Security Number (666 prefix) that was assigned to them in a previous year.
2014-2015 FAFSA Changes
2014-2015 FAFSA Form
- Marital status changes for students or parents in a same-sex marriage, due to the U.S. Supreme Court decision on June 26, 2013 concerning the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
- Parental information must be reported for unmarried parents, regardless of gender or marital status, if the parents live together.
- New “Parent 1” and “Parent 2” labels.
- Added new tax filing status questions to identify inconsistencies with marital status as reported on the FAFSA.
- Increased lengths of income and asset fields (questions 36-37, 39-45, 85-86 and 88-94).
- Verification enhancements, including the addition of identity verification functionality.
For more information, download the 2014–2015 Summary of Changes.
2013-2014 FAFSA Changes
2013-2014 FAFSA Form
- Certain application rejects are now eliminated for applicants who use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) and do not modify the adjusted gross income and taxes paid data elements.
- Verification enhancements to identify applicants with an unusual enrollment history.
- Expanded electronic communications and eliminated paper renewal reminders and paper PIN mailers.
- Implemented the new 6-year limits on Federal Pell Grant eligibility by adding Pell Lifetime Eligibility Used (LEU) information.
- Auto-zero-EFC income threshold increased from $23,000 to $24,000.
- Simplified needs test income threshold remains unchanged.
For more information, download the 2013–2014 Summary of Changes.
2012-2013 FAFSA Changes
2012-2013 FAFSA Form
- Better identification of when applicants are eligible to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool through the addition of new filtering questions and dynamically displayed messaging.
- Enable financial aid administrators to allow changes in a student’s marital status.
- Gender question changes.
- Enhanced high school and federal school code search feature, including better keyword search rules (matches common abbreviations and aliases, as well as common spelling errors) and new “Best Match” sorting order for the search results.
- Auto-zero-EFC income threshold increased from $31,000 to $32,000.
- Pacific Islander Social Security number changes from an 888 prefix to a 666 prefix.
For more information, download the 2012–2013 Summary of Changes.
2011-2012 FAFSA Changes
2011-2012 FAFSA Form
- Additional clarifying text was added for questions 26, 27, and 28.
- Questions 43d and 91d were adjusted to specify that only taxable aid should be reported.
- Questions 44i and 92i were updated by removing the statement clarifying combat pay “(if you are not a tax filer).”
- “As determined by a court in your state of legal residence” was added to questions 53 and 54.
- A variety of enhancements were made to the online FAFSA form.
For more information, download the 2011–2012 Summary of Changes.
2010-2011 FAFSA Changes
2010-2011 FAFSA Form
- Questions 44(f) and 92(f) were added to collect amounts for earnings from work under a cooperative education program offered by an institution of higher education.
- Questions 44 and 45, relating to veterans benefits, were removed.
- Revisions were made to marital status responses on question 16.
- Updates were made to improve the IRS Data Retrieval Tool for the online application.
For more information, download the 2010-2011 Summary of Changes.
2009-2010 FAFSA Changes
2009-2010 FAFSA Form
- Added TEACH Grant question (question 32).
- Veterans education benefit questions were reformatted to determine if the applicant received benefits (question 44) and if so, which benefits were received (question 45).
- Added the email address field for parents in question 71.
- Added “dislocated worker” to the list of criteria for the Simplified Needs Test and/or Automatic Zero EFC (question 85).
- Revisions for dependent students who have special circumstances, allowing them to submit their online application without parental financial information. However, this method requires a financial aid administrator to perform a dependency override for the students.
- The IRS Data Retrieval Tool was launched for the FAFSA on the Web Application. This allowed tax filers to transfer tax information directly from the IRS.
For more information, download the 2009-2010 Summary of Changes.
2008-2009 FAFSA Changes
2008-2009 FAFSA Form
- Question 21 was revised to ask “are you male” by adding “are you female.”
- Question 27 was revised to include two additional school completion options: “home schooled” and “other.”
- Accompanying notes were changes for questions 16, 27, 34, 78, 71-75, and 92-96.
For more information, download the 2008-2009 Summary of Changes.