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The new FAFSA: Here's what you need to know before applying for federal student aid for the 2024-25 academic year

Zareen Syed, Chicago Tribune on

Published in News & Features

After a delayed launch that set the timeline back by months, the overhauled Free Application for Federal Student Aid is off to a complicated start.

The FAFSA, which typically opens in October, didn’t become available until Dec. 31, after the government revised the form and changed the formula for student aid in an attempt to make it easier to file. And the new form was hard to access for several weeks.

The changes created a tighter timeline for students, especially those filing for financial aid for the first time, and a time crunch for colleges, which won’t get student information until mid-March at the earliest.

The new, streamlined FAFSA still has some kinks: One of its largest issues has made it difficult for applicants whose families do not have Social Security numbers to start or access the 2024-25 FAFSA form.

The glitch has caused collateral pain, according to Jack Wallace, the head of government affairs and industry relations at Yrefy, a Phoenix-based student loan provider. “Not only do you have students having a difficult time still getting on the website and getting things processed on the front end, but there’s also a delay in getting the data to the schools,” Wallace said.

Applicants should fill out the FAFSA as early as possible, but don’t rush through it, and be sure to do it right, Wallace said. “You only get one shot at getting it done and getting it done correctly,” he said. “If you make mistakes on it and get kicked out, it’s only going to delay your financial aid and decision processing even more.”

 

There are many things to know about completing the form this year.

The form is online at StudentAid.gov. You’ll need to create a Federal Student Aid or FSA ID, an online login with a username and password, for the U.S. Department of Education.

There are a few ways the experience will be different for the 2024-25 application, according to Wallace, who said he met with Department of Education officials earlier this month.

The application is shorter, but not necessarily easier. “The biggest change is that it is supposed to be a more simple application process because they cut the questions almost in half,” Wallace said.

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