FAFSA Frequently Asked Questions
What is Early FAFSA?
The 2018–19 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) season will begin earlier than previous FAFSA application cycles. Beginning on Oct. 1, 2017, students will be able to fill out the FAFSA for the 2018–19 school year. (In the past, you had to wait until January 1). The earlier submission date will be a permanent change, enabling you to complete and submit a FAFSA as early as October 1 every year. If you file the FAFSA earlier, you’ll have an earlier indication of how much your family is expected to contribute, which will help with budgeting for the upcoming school year.
What is Prior Prior Year?
In addition to changing the FAFSA launch date, the requirements for reporting income information are also changing. Currently, FAFSA applicants provide income information from the “prior tax year.” Beginning with the 2017–18 FAFSA, applicants will provide income information from one tax year earlier—the “prior-prior” year. This means that the 2018–19 FAFSA will collect 2016 income information. As a result of this change, more students and families will be able to complete their FAFSA using income information imported electronically from the IRS, using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT), rather than submitting applications with income estimates that may need correcting, or worse, waiting until the previous year’s tax return has been filed.
Can I choose which year’s tax information to provide on the FAFSA?
No. The Department of Education has determined which year’s tax information is provided for each academic year. The following table provides a summary of key dates as we transition to using the early FAFSA submission timeframe and earlier tax information.
What if I didn’t file taxes in 2016? Do I complete the FAFSA with 2017 tax information?
No. If you didn’t file taxes in 2016, you’ll complete the FAFSA with “non-filer” information for 2016. If you received income in 2016 but did not file taxes, you’ll also be asked to submit a copy of your W-2 forms from 2016. You may also be asked to provide a "statement of non-filing" from the IRS.
What if my family’s 2017 income is less than the 2016 income provided for 2018-2019?
Any time that a family’s financial situation has changed from the base year information provided on the FAFSA, you can submit an appeal. Our Special Circumstance Form is available for download. We highly recommend speaking with your financial aid officer about your specific circumstances prior to submitting the form or any additional documentation. The staff in the Office of Student Financial Planning can help you determine what documentation will need to be submitted.