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Surprise: FAFSA For 2024-2025 School Year Opens In December



Paying for college is incredibly stressful for most families today, and financial aid plays a role for many. The key to unlocking this financial aid comes by filling out the FAFSA – or Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

Typically, the FAFSA opens on October 1 for students and families starting college the following year. But this year, the FAFSA is delayed until sometime in December 2023.

The reason is complex, but has to do with “FAFSA simplification” and to how financial need is calculated. The Department of Education needed extra time to get the application launched.

Here’s what you need to know.


What Is The FAFSA

By filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you can open the door to qualifying for college grants, work-study programs, federal student loans, and certain state-based aid. While many families don’t think they qualify for any help, filling out the FAFSA is the only way to find out. Sallie Mae even estimates that families missed out on as much as $3.6 billion in Pell Grants by not submitting the FAFSA in 2022.

With this in mind, you should know that the FAFSA for the 2024-25 school year will open in December of 2023 and become available for those who are ready to get started. This is unique from previous years since the new FAFSA form is typically open on October 1st.

There are also quite a few changes on the way for families filling out the FAFSA for the 2024-25 school year later this year and next.

For example, the FAFSA has been largely simplified and reduced from 108 questions down to just 36. This will make it easier than ever for families to apply for funding with the FAFSA in a timely manner and without feeling overwhelmed by all the information required.

One of the biggest changes this year is that Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is no longer the metric that will be used to calculate need-based aid. Instead, a new metric – Student Aid Index (SAI) will be used instead. You can see this Student Aid Index Chart and Calculator to see how your family will score.

Important FAFSA Deadlines To Know

Because filling out the FAFSA is completely free and the only way to find out which types of federal and state aid you may be eligible for, moving forward with this lengthy application is a no-brainer. The U.S. Department of Education even notes that most applicants can fill out the FAFSA within an hour and potentially less than that, so there’s no reason to delay.


FAFSA deadlines to know about for the 2024-25 school year include:

College Deadlines

Colleges have their own deadlines for the FAFSA that are typically a lot earlier than other deadlines that apply, especially the federal deadline. You can find out the FAFSA deadline for specific schools by looking them up on their websites, and you’ll want to submit the FAFSA by a school’s priority deadline if you’re hoping to get as much aid as you possibly can.

Note that, if you want to submit the FAFSA form early, you can list all schools you’re considering whether you ultimately end up applying or not. The U.S. Department of Education says you can always add or remove schools from your FAFSA form later in the process.

State Deadlines

States also have their own individual deadlines for filling out the FAFSA, and you can use this page in the U.S. Department of Education website to check the deadline for where you live. When you do, you’ll find that some states have much earlier deadlines than others, and that state deadlines may not align with the federal deadline at all.

While college deadlines for the FAFSA are important since they’re often the earliest deadline to worry about, you’ll also want to pay attention to state deadlines since plenty of state-based financial aid is first come, first serve.

Federal Deadline

The final deadline to know about for the FAFSA is the federal deadline, after which the form becomes unavailable for the school year it was intended for. Interestingly, the federal deadline for the FAFSA stretches all the way within the intended school year it’s meant for, which means students who feel behind may still have plenty of time.

Regardless, the FAFSA deadline for the 2024-25 school year is June 30, 2025.


The Bottom Line

While the FAFSA typically opens for people to fill out on October 1st of each year, this year is different and the form won’t open until December 2023 for the 2024-25 school year.

That said, families who fill out the FAFSA this year will have to answer fewer questions overall. They will also find a more streamlined process that should theoretically be less stressful and time-consuming.

Once December rolls around, you should get started on the FAFSA as quickly as you can in order to meet school deadlines and qualify for maximum state-based and federal financial aid. This is especially true if you’re applying Early Decision to a college.

The earlier you can start the process and complete all the required information requested in the form, the sooner you can start planning other aspects of you or your dependent’s college education.

In the meantime, don’t forget about all the other ways you can pay for college or pay less overall. Apply for as many scholarships as you think you may be eligible for, and compare the costs of different institutions before you even apply. Also consider attending community college for the first few years then transferring credits to a four-year school if a bachelor’s degree is the end goal.

Source: Forbes


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