Here's What You Should Know About The New FAFSA


  • February 23, 2024
  • By Samantha Martinez

After a 3-month delay and major redesign, the long-awaited relaunch of the 2024-25 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is now available. Over 3 million students have already completed the form since the end of January, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Filling out the FAFSA gives college students the opportunity to receive federal, state, and school-based aid in the form of loans, grants, and scholarships. With some of this aid being limited, the sooner you submit the FAFSA, the better. This is the first time the form has undergone a drastic change in the last 40 years, so we’ve compiled a list of information concerning the revamped FAFSA to give you some helpful insight.

What’s Different About the new FAFSA Form?

For a long time, the FAFSA had been criticized for its complexity and length (it used to be 108 questions!). The length and difficulty of the old form was said to deter students from filling out the FAFSA, causing them to lose out on possible aid they would have otherwise been receiving. Thanks to the FAFSA Simplification Act, which was signed into law in 2020, the form has been shortened as a result. The number of questions on the new application vary based on the applicant’s financial circumstances, but according to financial aid experts, there’s about two-thirds less questions on the new form compared to the old one. The Department of Education announced some forms have as few as 18 questions, taking less than 10 minutes for applicants to fill out.

The new FAFSA also implements a direct data exchange from the IRS. This means a lot of the information included on the form can be directly taken from filers’ tax returns, and applicants won‘t have to scramble searching for the information of their tax returns to input like in previous years.

Likely to impact students’ aid for the 2024-25 academic year is FASFA’s new formula used to calculate a family’s need-based aid. For one, the previously-used Expected Family Contribution (EFC) has been replaced with the Student Aid Index (SAI). Just like the EFC, the lower your SAI, the more aid you’ll likely be eligible for. The difference is that the new formula increases the income protection allowance, allowing for more of a student’s or family’s income to be excluded from calculation, hence lowering the SAI. Unlike the EFC, an applicant’s SAI can drop below zero, as low as negative $1,500. With this change, low-income families can potentially receive more aid this year than they have in previous school years.

Under the new FAFSA, students who previously benefited from having a sibling in college through what’s known as a “sibling discount” will unfortunately not have the option to qualify for this, as the new form doesn’t take into consideration whether the applicant has a sibling in college at the same time.

However, federal aid in the form of the Pell Grant is likely to be more widely dispersed, as more students are projected to qualify for the Pell, potentially receiving up to $7,395 during the current school year (which is the maximum amount). According to the Department of Education, an estimated 600,000+ students will qualify to receive the Pell grant annually, and it’s estimated that 1.5 million students will qualify for the maximum amount, which is a plus! 

Important Dates & Deadlines

Three things to keep in mind are:

  1. Your college’s deadline to submit FAFSA. College deadlines for submitting the FAFSA can vary, but they tend to be well before the academic year starts. So, if you’re applying to different schools, make sure to check your college’s website to meet the deadline to receive aid.

  2. The state deadline. Another date to keep in mind is the deadline to submit the FAFSA issued by your home state. Some states have a hard deadline, while others give suggested dates for priority consideration for aid. 

    For those in California, the Department of Education recommends submitting your application no later than April 2, 2024, to qualify for most state financial aid programs.

    Students looking to receive the Cal Grant (eligible students include those who attend or plan to attend a University of California, California State University, or a California Community College, or qualifying independent and career colleges/technical schools in California) should submit their FAFSA by March 2, 2024. Check your state’s deadline here.

  3. The federal deadline. Lastly, the U.S. Department of Education urges everyone to submit your FAFSA before the June 30, 2024, cut-off date, which is when the form officially becomes unavailable.

Important Things to Note

Due to setbacks in launching the new FAFSA form and necessary corrections to errors that could’ve potentially cost students over a billion dollars in aid, financial aid offers for the 2024-25 cycle will be ‘massively delayed.’ What does this mean? The Department of Education announced on Jan. 30, 2024, that the processing for completed FAFSA forms won’t start until mid-March, hindering the time schools begin receiving data and sending out aid offers. Additionally, edits to already-submitted FAFSA forms won’t be able to be completed until processing begins. Although this means less time to fill out the form, students and families should still submit the FAFSA by the deadline for the chance to receive federal aid.

Another thing to be mindful of are reported “temporary pauses” where the form is unavailable online. During the “soft-launch” period of the form, the application was only open for 30-minute windows on Dec. 30 & 31, and a 2-hour window on Jan. 1, 2024. The Department of Education advises users who are online during a temporary pause to check back in at a later time to continue filling out the form.

Other Aid

It is highly recommended that students looking for aid this school year check in with the financial aid office at the college(s) or career school they plan to attend for additional information on available aid and important deadlines. High school seniors and transferring students should check in with their counselor to stay on-track to filling out the FAFSA on-time to receive need-based aid. 

Previously, families with parents who weren’t US citizens and didn’t have a Social Security number couldn’t create a FSA ID, but with the new form, those without a Social Security number will be able to create an FSA ID and a parent’s citizenship status will not be taken into consideration in determining a student’s financial aid eligibility.

Students who are noncitizens or belong to the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program should fill out the California Dream Act Application and may be eligible for aid through their college or private scholarships.

Submit the FAFSA form ASAP!

The recent changes to the FAFSA are meant to simplify the form and assist students in the process of receiving aid, and while the form will be delayed, it’s still encouraged to submit the FAFSA as soon as possible. For questions and for free FAFSA support, call the Federal Student Aid office at (800) 4-FED-AID. If you have already submitted your FAFSA and would like to check the status, visit StudentAid.gov.

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