Timeline to Apply For Financial Aid
Financial aid forms must be filed each year the student is in college. This applies to graduate school as well. Check your schools' websites to see which financial aid forms are required. You can be sure that the FAFSA will be required for every school, but there may be additional forms, such as the CSS Profile, as well.
In a change this year, the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) will open later than its traditional October 1 release. This year, it is scheduled to open on December 1, 2023, for the 2024-25 school year (students who will be college freshmen in fall 2024), and colleges are scrambling to figure out how the new timeline will work for applicants who apply Early Action or Early Decision. Regardless, families are encouraged to submit the form as soon as possible after the opening.
Some colleges are offering early financial aid estimates, especially for students applying for early action or early decision! They might have you fill out the CSS Profile and a form specific to their school.
After you have submitted your FAFSA, the US Dept. of Education will process your information within 3-5 business days and send you your Student Aid Report, which will show your Student Aid Index (previously called your Expected Family Contribution). The information on your FAFSA is sent to the colleges you indicated, which will then create a financial aid package. For additional information, please see https://studentaid.gov/help-center/answers/article/next-steps-after-submitting-fafsa.