Understanding FAFSA deadlines

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The FAFSA deadline is important, but the day it opens might be even more so. The sooner you apply, the more financial aid you can receive.The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, starts accepting applications every Oct. 1 and closes June 30. While June 30 is the federal deadline, each institution has different deadlines. Here’s what you need to know about FAFSA deadlines for 2020 and beyond.What to know when filing your FAFSA for next year close to Oct. 1Oct. 1 is the first day you can complete your FAFSA form for the following school year. For instance, if you’re attending school for the 2020-21 academic year, you would’ve filled out your FAFSA as early as Oct. 1, 2019.If you’re getting ready for the 2021-22 school year, you can complete your FAFSA this year, starting on Oct. 1, 2020.Aid is given on a first-come, first-served basis. That means the sooner you apply, the more financial aid you could receive based on your expected family contribution (EFC). If you’re looking for federal aid while you’re in school, you’ll need to complete the FAFSA every year.What to know when filing your FAFSA for next year close to June 30The last day to complete your FAFSA form is June 30. But that’s only the federal deadline. Many institutions and states have their own deadlines that will require you to submit your FAFSA earlier, depending on where you live and the school you’ll be attending.Remember that students who submit their paperwork sooner have the opportunity to receive more financial aid than those who leave it until the end. For the 2019-20 academic year, 71 percent of families filed the FAFSA, according to Sallie Mae. This means that 29 percent of families are missing out on potentially free money and student loans with the lowest interest rate.State and institutional FAFSA deadlinesEven though there are federal opening and closing dates for the FAFSA, every institution and state has individual standards as well. Some deadlines are as early as February and March, while some urge you to apply as soon as you can. Many institutions close once all the funding has been awarded.If you wait until June 30, you might miss out on state- and institution-specific funds. Along with that, you might limit how much federal aid you can get through scholarships and grants, like the Pell Grant. You might receive a limited amount of free aid, although you may still qualify for federal student loans.Here’s a breakdown of state-specific FAFSA deadlines for the 2020-21 academic year:

Alabama
Check with your financial administrator

Alaska
ASAP after Oct. 1, 2019, for Alaska Education Grant; by June 30, 2020, for Alaska Performance Scholarship

Arizona
Check with your financial administrator

Arkansas
June 1, 2020, for Academic Challenge and Higher Education Opportunity Grant; varies for Workforce Grant

California
March 2, 2020, for many state financial aid programs; Sept. 2, 2020, for community college Cal Grants

Colorado
Check with your financial administrator

Connecticut
Feb. 15, 2020

Delaware
June 15, 2020

Florida
May 15, 2020

Georgia
Check with your financial administrator

Hawaii
Check with your financial administrator

Idaho
March 1, 2020

Illinois
ASAP after Oct. 1, 2019

Indiana
ASAP after Oct. 1, 2019

Iowa
July 1, 2020

Kansas
June 1, 2020

Kentucky
ASAP after Oct. 1, 2019

Louisiana
July 1, 2021

Maine
May 1, 2020

Maryland
March 1, 2020

Massachusetts
May 1, 2020

Michigan
March 1, 2020

Minnesota
30 days after term starts

Mississippi
Oct. 15, 2020, for MTAG and MESG Grants; April 30, 2020, for HELP Grant

Missouri
Feb. 3, 2020, for priority consideration; April 1, 2020, deadline

Montana
Dec. 1, 2019

Nebraska
Check with your financial administrator

Nevada
ASAP after Oct. 1, 2019, for Silver State Opportunity Grant; April 1, 2020, for Nevada Promise Scholarship; varies for other aid

New Hampshire
Check with your financial administrator

New Jersey
June 1, 2020, for 2019-20 Tuition Aid Grant recipients; Sept. 15, 2020, for fall and spring terms; Feb 15, 2021, for spring term only

New Mexico
Check with your financial administrator

New York
June 30, 2021

North Carolina
ASAP after Oct. 1, 2019

North Dakota
ASAP after Oct. 1, 2019

Ohio
Oct. 1, 2020

Oklahoma
ASAP after Oct. 1, 2019

Oregon
ASAP after Oct. 1, 2019, for Oregon Opportunity Grant; March 1, 2020, for OSAC Private Scholarships; varies for Oregon Promise Grant

Pennsylvania
Aug. 1, 2020, for first-time applicants enrolled in community college, business, trade or technical school, hospital school of nursing, designated Pennsylvania Open-Admission institution or nontransferable two-year program; May 15, 2020, for all other applicants

Rhode Island
Check with your financial administrator

South Carolina
ASAP after Oct. 1, 2019, for SC Commission on Higher Education Need-based Grants, June 30, 2020, for Tuition Grants

South Dakota
Check with your financial administrator

Tennessee
Feb. 1, 2020, for State Grant; Feb. 1, 2020, for Tennessee Promise; Sept. 1, 2020, for State Lottery fall term; Feb. 1, 2021, for State Lottery spring and summer terms

Texas
Jan. 15, 2020

Utah
Check with your financial administrator

Vermont
ASAP after Oct. 1, 2019

Virginia
Check with your financial administrator

Washington
ASAP after Oct. 1, 2019

Washington, D.C.
May 1, 2020, for priority consideration; June 30, 2020, for DC Tuition Assistance Grant

West Virginia
March 1, 2020, for PROMISE Scholarship; April 15, 2020, for WV Higher Education Grant Program

Wisconsin
Check with your financial administrator

Wyoming
Check with your financial administrator

For some programs, additional forms may be required. For specific details about your state’s deadline requirements, head to the Department of Education’s website.Next stepsIf you’re still in high school and haven’t been accepted into a college or university yet, you can still complete the FAFSA as soon as you’re able. While you’ll need to list the schools that will receive the funding for your education, only the one in which you enroll will get the money.While you wait for your award letter, continue to apply for other aid. Look out for merit-based or athletic scholarships, along with need-based grants. Plenty of business and organizations are looking to award current and future college students through a wide variety of criteria, including:
Race.
Gender.
Religion.
Ethnicity.
Socioeconomic background.
Potential major.
Employer or parents’ employer.
You can also look for scholarships and grants based on where you live and where you’re attending school (both high school and college). If you’ve volunteered or done community service for some organizations, there might be aid available based on the work you’ve done.Make sure you’re aware of any aid deadlines related to the school you’ll be attending. You can make changes to your FAFSA form after you’ve submitted it. For instance, if you completed your form before the COVID-19 crisis and your family’s finances have significantly changed, you can update your family’s financial information. If you didn’t receive enough financial aid, you can also appeal your award letter to receive more money.To continue receiving funding every year you’re in school, you’ll need to reapply for the FAFSA annually. Even if you’re already in school, applying as early as possible will guarantee that you’re getting the most financial aid available to you.Learn more:
The complete guide to college scholarships and grants
8 ways to attend college for free
How the CSS Profile is different from the FAFSA

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