Many students use at least some form of financial aid to help cover the cost of college. Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, is important because it determines eligibility for state and school aid.
The FAFSA will be changing for the 2024-25 academic year. Matt Sanchez, director of the financial aid and scholarships at NDSU, said the Department of Education isn’t expecting the FAFSA application to be available until December, which is three months later than usual. Normally, the best months to complete the FAFSA are between October through December.
With this, a few questions on the FAFSA application will be changing. Sanchez said the changes will affect all applicants. Sanchez noted that many financial aid offices are working to understand the changes that are occurring, and will hopefully be provided more information as it comes available. Students and parents are encouraged to watch for additional information.
When the application is available, filling out the FAFSA isn’t a hard process, but there are helpful tips to made the application process smoother.
Review FAFSA resources available to you
Be sure to have all the needed information before you start
Sanchez said it’s typically recommended that students and their parent(s) fill out the application together, if possible. Financial records that will need to be accessed include tax returns, W-2s and other income-related documents. Other information you’ll need include your FSA ID, social security number, driver’s license number and a list of colleges you’re considering. The FAFSA school code for NDSU is 002997.
Sanchez said if documents need to be gathered after starting the FAFSA, be sure to save the progress that has been made and return when those documents have been collected.
Make sure to check for errors
Ensuring there are no errors or missing information in your application is important. Make sure you review your application carefully before submitting.
Other things to know
Sanchez stresses the “free” part of the FAFSA application and warns students to be aware of people and websites trying to charge for the application.
Sanchez said a common question his office receives regarding the FAFSA relates to dependency status.
“Although there are a lot of students who may be financially independent from their parents, that doesn’t necessarily make them independent for FAFSA purposes,” Sanchez said. “While completing the FAFSA and answering the questions, there will be a section on the FAFSA that will determine whether students have to provide parent information (called a “dependent” student) or not (called an “independent” student).”
Another common question Sanchez gets is about the amount of assistance a student receives.
“As for why students do not get more aid, unfortunately the FAFSA uses a complex formula in determining financial aid eligibility and this is coupled with the fact that the financial aid being offered today is generally covering less costs than it did two or three decades ago,” he said.