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Student Aid Secrets: File the FAFSA ASAP

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File the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) as soon as possible after October 1 of the student’s senior year in high school and each subsequent year in college. Do not procrastinate. Don’t miss out on student financial aid by missing a deadline.

The FAFSA is used to apply for financial aid from state grant programs and most colleges and universities, in addition to federal student aid. Colleges and state grant programs may have their own deadlines for filing the FAFSA. Several states and colleges have very early deadlines for state grants and other types of financial aid, some as early as February 1 (see sidebar). Other states and some colleges award their financial aid funds on a first-come, first-served basis, until the money runs out.

Students who file the FAFSA early receive more than twice as much grant funding, on average, as students who file the FAFSA later.

States with Early FAFSA Deadlines

First-come, First-served (10)

  • Illinois
  • Kentucky
  • Nevada
  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Vermont
  • Washington (state)
  • Washington, D.C.

February Deadlines (3)

  • Connecticut
  • Oregon
  • Utah

March Deadlines (12)

  • California
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Maryland
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • Montana
  • Oklahoma
  • Rhode Island
  • Texas
  • West Virginia

Families should not wait until after the student has been admitted by a college.

Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute

Don’t delay applying for aid. Filing the FAFSA earlier will help the student avoid missing deadlines, thereby maximizing the amount of aid for which they are eligible.

Don’t wait until the day the application is due. Assume that the deadline is based on Eastern Time, not Pacific Time. (The federal deadline for filing the FAFSA is based on Central Time, but each state may use a deadline based on a different time zone for state grants. Assuming that the deadline is based on Eastern Time is safest.) Don’t miss out on financial aid opportunities by missing any deadlines.

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