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 and possibly a college's institutional form as well.
In a change this year, the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) opened on December 31 for the 2024-25 school year (students who will be college freshmen in fall 2024) instead of its traditional October 1 release. Colleges are scrambling to figure out how the new timeline will work for applicants who apply for Early Action or Early Decision. Regardless, families are encouraged to submit the form as soon as possible after the opening.
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 or SAI (previously called your Expected Family Contribution or EFC). The FAFSA sends your SAI to the colleges you added to your FAFSA. The colleges use the SAI to create a financial aid package for you.