Oct. 1 is a day that current and incoming college students have marked on their calendars all year long. Oct. 1 is not just the beginning of a new month, but the date that students can begin applying for financial aid for the next school year. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is typically open from October to June 30 of the following year. In 2023, however, the application did not open in October as planned. Instead, FAFSA announced they were implementing new changes to the application, which will open in December.
On Nov. 15, the U.S. Department of Education announced details about the new streamlined FAFSA application. According to the Department, the new 2024-25 FAFSA application will go live on Dec. 31. According to ABC News, the application has not been significantly updated since the Reagan administration. The overhaul of FAFSA has been under review for the last two years since Congress passed bipartisan legislation for it to be updated. The goal is for this streamlined application to relieve the stress and confusion that can come with applying for financial aid.
Here are some of the changes you can expect from this new FAFSA application.
- More students will be able to receive Federal Pell Grants.
One of the most impactful results from this year’s update is that 610,000 more students will receive the Federal Pell Grant, a grant awarded to undergraduate students who display exceptional financial need. The Pell Grant eligibility will now be linked to family size and the federal poverty level, which will help 1.5 million students receive the full grant, leading to a total of 5.2 million eligible students.
- The form will be streamlined and easier to understand.
The previous FAFSA form could be very confusing, with about 25% of users abandoning their application partway through. The U.S. Department of Education sought to streamline this form to be more accessible and easy to understand.
Now, users will be able to transfer their federal tax information directly from the IRS, without needing to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. Over 9 million applicants had to use this tool in the past, and the new form will remove this burdensome extra step. The application will also only show students questions that are relevant to them — some users may only have to answer 18 questions, instead of the 103 questions on the 2023-24 form.
- There are new helpful tools and information available.
In March, FAFSA released the 2024-25 FAFSA Roadmap, a tool that will help students, their families, and schools navigate the new application. The roadmap contains a collection of resources for students and their parents, as well as a timeline of when these resources become available. Consolidating these resources will be helpful for students and family members who may feel overwhelmed by FAFSA.
Another tool is the revised Federal Student Aid Estimator, which provides an estimate of how much federal student aid the student may be eligible to receive. Having this estimate in mind when you complete FAFSA can be helpful as you start planning for college. FAFSA has also released an outreach campaign about preparing for the FAFSA launch and videos and infographics with an overview of the new form.
- There will be additional support for educators and organizations.
Students aren’t the only ones who have felt overwhelmed by FAFSA before: Parents, school counselors, and even postsecondary schools have been confused. With the new changes, there will be more support available for everyone. The Department has conducted virtual training sessions for a total of 60,000 users in 2023, and it continues to provide targeted support to under-resourced schools.
The Department also launched the “Better FAFSA Better Future” toolkit with resources and sample social media and email content for college access professionals. Providing this direct support takes away a lot of the stress previously associated with FAFSA.
The FAFSA will open on Dec. 31, 2023.