Inceptia_Great Advice for FAFSA 2024

Teaming up with our friends at Nerdwallet, we’ve got some insider tips on the FAFSA journey so far and how you can keep on track. Trust us, it’s a quick read packed with Great Advice to help you navigate this financial maze like a pro.


More FAFSA Delays Likely to Slow Aid and College Decisions . . . . . . . . 3 Dealing With FAFSA Glitches and Confusion? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6

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Let’s talk FAFSA...

the magical form that holds the key to financial aid, grants, scholarships, and work-study gigs. But hey, we get it, navigating through it, while it was supposed to be easier this time, can feel like trying to crack a secret code. Sure, the FAFSA simplification intention was to make it easier for applicants and schools, but let’s be real, the rollout hasn’t been all smooth sailing. Sound familiar? But fret not! Filling out the FAFSA is one (if not THE) most important thing you can do to financially manage your higher ed career, and while the folks at the U.S. Department of Education are working to fix things up, your schools have got your back. And guess what? We’re here to lend a hand too! Teaming up with our friends at Nerdwallet, we’ve got some insider tips on the FAFSA journey so far and how you can keep on track. Trust us, it’s a quick read packed with Great Advice to help you navigate this financial maze like a pro.

Let’s ace this together!



More FAFSA Delays Likely to Slow Aid and College Decisions


If you’ll be in college next year, don’t expect financial aid offers anytime soon. Colleges won’t begin receiving processed FAFSAs — Free Applications for Federal Student Aid — until mid-March, the U.S. Education Department said on Tuesday. “We will email students when their information has been shared with their schools and when they can access official aid calculations on their account,” U.S. Department of Education Under Secretary James Kvaal said in a press call after the announcement. Once colleges receive processed FAFSAs, they can start building financial aid packages, which may include loan eligibility, grants, scholarships and estimated cost of attendance. That process takes another few weeks. The earliest students could get financial aid offers is the first week of April. Colleges will likely rethink the typical May 1 decision date to allow students and families enough time to consider their aid packages, says Karen McCarthy, vice president of public policy and federal relations at the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators. “It’s reasonable to think that many more states and institutions will be having those conversations about their deadlines, how far they can push those and still be able to get all their work done,” McCarthy says. “It really affects all of their timelines leading up to the beginning of the next school year.” BIGGEST MAKEOVER IN DECADES The mid-March processing delay is the latest in a long string of missteps for the new 2024-25 financial aid form, which has undergone its biggest makeover since the 1980s. The FAFSA usually launches on October 1 for the following academic year; this year, it “soft launched” three months late, on December 30. FAFSA users faced myriad glitches during the soft launch when the form was available for as little as 30 minutes per day. The online form is now available 24/7, and most technical issues have been resolved. However, some students — like those with undocumented parents — remain unable to complete the form. In late January, after the form had already been live for nearly a month, the Education Department acknowledged a major math error that would have left $1.8 billion worth of aid on the table.


Until the Education Department’s announcement on Tuesday, colleges were still working under the assumption that they would begin receiving processed FAFSAs by the end of January, McCarthy says. “Schools had already restructured their timelines in terms of awarding and when things would happen with regards to aid offers, and so now they’ve thrown that all into disarray again,” McCarthy says. On Jan. 24, a group of lawmakers led by two Republicans — Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina — sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office calling for an investigation of the Education Department’s rocky FAFSA rollout. “The Department of Education had three years to prepare the rollout of the updated FAFSA. Their inability to do their job has real consequences for students and families,” Sen. Cassidy said in a statement Tuesday. “These unacceptable delays from the Biden administration creates the real likelihood that many students will forgo college because they cannot choose a school without knowing their eligibility for student aid.” STUDENTS AND PARENTS: HERE’S WHAT YOU CAN DO. Despite the FAFSA delay and confusion, it’s still important to fill out the form. Otherwise, students won’t be able to qualify for federal student loans, grants, work-study and some scholarships. There’s no income limit to qualify for aid, and you might get more than you expect. Submit the FAFSA as soon as possible. Even with the major processing delay, your FAFSA will record a time stamp when you submit it. Since some types of financial aid have priority deadlines or are first-come, first-serve, submit the form soon to qualify for the most aid. Remember the paper FAFSA is an option. If your parents are undocumented and can’t complete their portion of the FAFSA, you may want to wait a few weeks until the online process opens. But if you have any upcoming priority financial aid deadlines, you can complete the PDF version of the FAFSA. It’s available in English and Spanish on You’ll need to mail the completed paper form to the Federal Student Aid office.


Confirm your financial aid deadlines. If you’re a prospective student, reach out to your potential schools to see if they’ve moved their FAFSA and college decision deadlines. If you’re a current student, confirm the financial aid timeline at your school. All students should check financial aid deadlines for their state and any scholarships to which they’re applying. Ask for assistance. Free FAFSA help is available. Reach out to your high school’s college counselor or the financial aid offices at your school (or potential schools), search for college access nonprofits in your community or call the Federal Student Aid office at 800-4-FED-AID. Here’s the bright spot: the new FAFSA is easier and quicker to complete for many students. Some will need to answer only 18 questions, down from 103 possible questions in previous years. With a new financial aid eligibility formula, at least 1.5 million students from low-income backgrounds are expected to qualify for the maximum Pell Grant award — $7,395 per year.

This article More FAFSA Delays Likely to Slow Aid and College Decisions was originally published on NerdWallet on January 30, 2024.

ELIZA HAVERSTOCK is a writer at NerdWallet.


Dealing With FAFSA Glitches and Confusion? Here’s What You Can Do


The redesigned 2024-25 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is now available around the clock, following a weeklong soft launch, during which the form was open for as little as 30 minutes a day. Although the new form is simpler and shorter, students and families are still contending with technical glitches, changed processes and confusing questions. “There have been some bumps in the road in terms of accessibility and functionality,” says Steve Colón, CEO of Bottom Line, a college access organization that works with first-generation students from low-income backgrounds in New York City, Boston, Chicago and Ohio. “On the positive side, we’ve heard that for some students it’s taking about 20 minutes to complete the FAFSA, which is wildly different from what it was before.” In recent years, completing the FAFSA could take an hour or longer. Experts urge students to submit the new FAFSA as soon as possible, since some types of financial aid have priority deadlines or draw from a limited pool. Perplexed about something on the new FAFSA? Here are its five most-confusing aspects, and strategies to deal with them — so you can submit your form ASAP. Persistent technical glitches Technical glitches on the FAFSA can be frustrating. For example, some users report getting repeatedly logged out before they can finish their form. If you encounter issues like this, it’s OK to take a break and come back to the form a bit later. “There is not a huge rush on filling it out today versus tomorrow,” says Karen McCarthy, vice president of public policy and federal relations at the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators. “So it is possible to come back in a few days, and hopefully, some of these glitches will be worked out by that point in time.”



Other glitches remain baked into the form. For example, some school names are getting cut off on the FAFSA. This can be confusing if a school you’d like to send your FAFSA to has multiple campuses. If this happens, students can do an internet search for a school’s Federal School Code, and use that number to pull it up in the FAFSA. The situation is evolving day by day. The latest list of known FAFSA glitches and workarounds is available on You can’t correct submitted answers until mid-March If you submitted your portion of the FAFSA but realized you made an error, you will have to wait several weeks until you can fix it. Students will receive an email with their FAFSA Submission Summary — which details submitted answers, Pell Grant eligibility and their Student Aid Index — once the Department of Education processes their completed form, which is slated to start in mid-March. Then, you can make any necessary corrections to your submitted answers. Even if you make a correction later on, it won’t change the submission time stamp on your FAFSA, McCarthy says. This could be important for students applying for financial aid that is first come, first served or that has an early application deadline. Undocumented parents can’t access the form yet There’s a new process for undocumented parents to request an FSA ID this year — but it’s not working yet, and there’s no timeline for when it will be. Until this issue is fixed, students whose parents don’t have Social Security numbers (SSNs) cannot submit the FAFSA. Taking some time to get organized now can help you complete the FAFSA more easily once it’s available. If you’re a parent without an SSN, continue to reach out to support structures, like college access organizations or school counselors, Colón says. “The moment that the tool becomes available, it’s critical to get in there and get started,” says Colón. “While it is a greatly simplified form, it’s not going to be for students whose parents don’t have an SSN, so it’s going to be really important that they get all their financial paperwork ready as soon as possible to give themselves the time they will need to complete the form.” Invitation process for contributors This year, students and parents fill out and submit their relevant portion of the FAFSA separately. Either the student starts and completes their portion of the FAFSA and “invites” the parent, or a parent can start and complete their section, then they invite the student. That’s different from past years, when a dependent student and their parents had to sit down together and fill out a single form. “It’s a role-based process, where it was not before,” says Jodi Vanden Berge, director of college planning and outreach at EducationQuest, a Nebraska-based college access nonprofit.





Confusing questions Though the new FAFSA is generally more straightforward than in years past, borrowers have reported that several questions are confusing or unclear. Here are two to watch out for: Free lunch question This has proved confusing, since some school districts introduced universal free and reduced lunch programs for all students, regardless of their family’s financial situation, during the pandemic. Under the federal benefits question — At any time during 2022 or 2023, did the student or anyone in their family receive benefits from any of the following federal programs? — “free or reduced-price school lunch” is an option. Students should only indicate that they received free or reduced lunch if they meet U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) income eligibility guidelines, according to a Jan. 12 blog post from the National College Attainment Network. This is a reversal from previous FAFSA guidance, which advised any student covered by a universal free or reduced lunch program to say “yes” to this question. Dependency question Some students have reported confusion about this new question used to establish dependency: Are the student’s parents unwilling to provide their information, but the student doesn’t have an unusual circumstance that prevents them from contacting or obtaining their parents’ information? If a student selects “yes” — that they don’t want to provide parent information — then, the parent can’t fill out their section of the FAFSA, Vanden Berge says. This would disqualify a student from most federal financial aid, apart from direct unsubsidized loans, meaning they can’t access grants, work-study or subsidized loans, which don’t accrue interest while they’re in school.


If you do make a mistake, remember that you can request a correction once your form is processed.

The article Dealing With FAFSA Glitches and Confusion? Here’s What You Can Do was written for NerdWallet on February 23, 2024.

ELIZA HAVERSTOCK is a writer at NerdWallet.


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