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How A FAFSA Fiasco Is Affecting College Decision Day Deadlines

College decision time can be extremely stressful. Applying, anxiously awaiting a decision, and seeing how much scholarship money you receive is a long, fraught process. And the process has become even longer and more fraught for many seniors in 2024, as FAFSA delays have majorly impacted many students’ college decision processes

FAFSA (or the Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is a form students all over the country fill out to determine their eligibility to receive student financial aid from the federal government. According to College Board, many states and colleges also use the FAFSA to determine how they dole out financial aid.

Ahead of the period to apply for aid for the 2024-2025 school year, the U.S. government rolled out a new version of the FAFSA, which was designed to make the application easier for students and parents, as well as increase opportunities for more students to be eligible for aid than ever before. However, the intended outcome hasn’t been the *actual* outcome, as multiple issues have come up, preventing students from being able to properly submit the form. 

According to Forbes, the application’s launch was delayed from its usual October date to the end of December 2024. Then, a long line of glitches and technical issues caused the form to only work off and on until it became fully working and available 24/7 on Jan. 8. The FAFSA also failed to account for historic inflation, introduced a formula mistake that expanded PELL grant eligibility, and even had a glitch that prevented students in mixed-citizenship status families from filling out the form, according to Inside Higher Ed

The holdups caused by the new FAFSA are so severe that many colleges are extending their 2024 decision deadlines in order to accommodate students affected. 

How is the FAFSA fiasco affecting college decision deadlines?

Because of the delays caused by the new FAFSA, many colleges and universities didn’t receive FAFSA information from applicants until the later half of March 2024, delaying these schools’ decisions on what kind of aid they’re able to give to students. This delay means many families are still waiting to hear about what kind of aid they will be able to receive from a school — and for many students, this means their decisions on what school to attend are stalled as well, since financial aid plays a huge role in determining where to go to college.

As a result, many colleges are extending their deadlines for students to make a final decision on where to enroll for the coming school year to May 15 or later. (The traditional commitment date in the U.S. is May 1.) 

Oregon State University was among the first colleges to extend. “We had two options: We could either stick to our May 1 deadline and deal with thousands of individual requests for flexibility, or we could get out ahead of this and live with the ramifications,” Jon Boeckenstedt, vice president of enrollment management at Oregon State told Inside Higher Ed.

Which schools are extending their 2024 decision deadlines?

According to the National Association for College Administration Counseling, at least 190 colleges have postponed their commitment deadline for the 2024-2025 school year. If you want to check a specific university to see if its deadline is extended, and when the new deadline is, the NACAC has an Enrollment Deadlines Directory to keep students and their families informed about deadlines and priority dates associated with schools. In the directory, schools are organized in alphabetical order, as well as searchable by name, and the directory includes links to additional information from each school. It appears most schools will also announce any deadline changes on their websites and social media accounts, so be sure to keep an eye on those as well.

Addie Whightsil is a Public Relations student at the University of Oklahoma. Beyond academics, Addie's interests extend to the simple pleasures in life. She has an undeniable affection for juice, savoring every drop of its fruity goodness. Her fondness for Jellycats, those irresistibly huggable stuffed animals, adds a touch of whimsy to her daily life. However, what she really loves is sharing personal stories and life lessons for the internet to read.