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Financial Aid Director Recommends Students Apply for Financial Aid Early to Make College Application Process Easier

FAFSA application will now be available Oct. 1 and will use prior tax information

September 27th, 2016

Story Contact: Sheena Rice, 573-882-8353,

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Starting this year, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) will be available for students and their families on Oct. 1 rather than Jan. 1, marking a significant change in the college application process. Nick Prewett, director of financial aid at the University of Missouri and board member of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA), says this change will allow students to make more informed decisions about where to go to school and how to pay.

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“The FAFSA being available in the fall is one of the most significant changes to the college recruitment timeline that we’ve see in a generation,” Prewett said. “By having the FAFSA available earlier, students will be able to complete their federal aid applications in the same timeframe as their college applications. Learning about federal aid eligibility earlier will allow students and families to better understand the cost of colleges and make more informed decisions about which school is the right match for them.”

The changes to the FAFSA process were put in place to streamline the process for students. Now the FAFSA will use income and tax information from an earlier tax year rather than the current year. For example for the 2017-2018 FAFSA applicants will report 2015 income and tax information. This change will make the process easier and more efficient because taxes have already been filed and can be imported automatically.

Prewett notes the following steps that students and families need to know to help complete the FAFSA application:

  • Create a Federal Student Aid ID to get access to the online system.
  • Gather the necessary documents including: social security number, 2015 federal income tax returns, W-2 forms, records of untaxed income, bank statements and records of investments. To speed up the process, FAFSA uses an IRS Data Retrieval Tool that allows tax information to transfer directly from the IRS. Simply click “link to IRS” in the financial information section of the FAFSA to transfer tax information.
  • List all potential colleges, even if they are only possibilities. All of the schools listed will receive FAFSA information for their financial aid use.
  • Complete the FAFSA as close to Oct. 1 as possible as some financial aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.

“Receiving notice about your financial aid package and expected family contributions at the same time as acceptance letters makes sense for planning, and this new time frame provides students an additional three months to complete their aid application,” Prewett said. “People planning to attend college should note the new FAFSA date of Oct. 1 and fill it out as they send in college applications.”

Prewett is the director of the Office of Student Financial Aid at MU and serves as a representative for NASFAA. Recently, he was elected as the president-elect for the Midwest region. NASFAA advocated for the change to use income from two years prior to the application year and for making the application available earlier to help families as they plan for and apply to college.