Don't Wait to File Your 2020-2021 FAFSA
Posted By: Melissa Elliott - 11/3/2019 12:00:00 AM

The FAFSA is the application that students must complete to apply for federal student aid. This includes Federal Pell Grants, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, federal student loans, and work-study.

There is no need to wait to file your 2020-21 FAFSA.  It is available now!

Students are now able to submit a FAFSA earlier.  Students have been able to file a 2020–21 FAFSA since Oct. 1, 2019, rather than beginning on Jan. 1, 2020. The earlier submission date is a permanent change, enabling students to complete and submit a FAFSA as early as Oct. 1 every year.

Students now report earlier income information. Students are required to report income information from an earlier tax year. For example, on the 2020–21 FAFSA, students (and parents, as appropriate) must report their 2018 income information, rather than their 2019 income information.

The following table provides a summary of key dates for FAFSA submission and reporting of earlier tax information. 

When a Student Is Attending College

When a Student Can Submit a FAFSA

Which Year’s Income Information Is Required

2019-2020

October 1, 2018–June 30, 2020

2017

2020-2021

October 1, 2019–June 30, 2021

2018

2021-2022

October 1, 2020-June 30, 2022

2019

Frequently Asked Questions About the 2020-21 FAFSA

How will the changes benefit me?

Because the FAFSA will ask for older income and tax information, you will already have done your taxes by the time you fill out your FAFSA, and you won’t need to estimate your tax information and then go back into the FAFSA later to update it. Also, because you’ll already have done your taxes by the time you fill out your FAFSA, you may be able to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (IRS DRT) to automatically import your tax information into your FAFSA.

Why should I use the IRS DRT?

The IRS DRT is a great tool that is available to simplify the FAFSA application process. If you use the IRS DRT you don’t have to find your tax records, and you don’t have to worry about making mistakes entering your tax information on your FAFSA.

Will my 2019–20 FAFSA information be carried over onto the 2020–21 FAFSA?
No; too much could have changed since you filed your last FAFSA, and there's no way to predict what might be different, so you'll need to enter the information again. If you choose the Renewal FAFSA option when you start your application at fafsa.gov, some basic information from your 2019–20 FAFSA will be prepopulated in your 2020–21 FAFSA.

Can I choose to report 2019 information if my family’s income has dropped significantly since we filed 2018 taxes?
No. You must report 2018 tax and income information, as the FAFSA requires. If your family’s financial situation has changed dramatically since then, you should complete the FAFSA questions as required, submit the FAFSA, then contact the school you plan to attend and discuss your situation with the financial aid office. 

Do I report my 2018 tax and income information on the 2020–21 FAFSA now, and then update it once I’ve filed my 2019 taxes?
No. Do not update after filing your taxes. The 2020–21 FAFSA asks for 2018 tax information.

What if my parents’ (or my) marital status has changed since we filed 2018 taxes? How do we supply tax and income information on the FAFSA?
Here are some tips for this type of situation:

  • The FAFSA asks for marital status “as of today” (the day it’s filled out). So if the student or parent is married now but wasn’t in 2018 (and therefore didn’t file taxes as married), the spouse’s income will need to be added to the FAFSA.
  • Similarly, if the student or parent filed 2018 taxes as married but is no longer married when filling out the FAFSA, the spouse’s income will need to be subtracted.
  • And if the student or parent was married when filing 2018 taxes, then got divorced and is now married to someone else, there’s a bit more math to do: Subtract the ex’s income, then add the new spouse’s income.
  • The help text in fafsa.gov will discuss all these situations.

Do I have to apply for admission to a school before I list it on my FAFSA?
No. On your FAFSA, list all the schools to which you have applied or might apply.

Good luck and let us know if you have any questions.  We want to provide the financial support you need to afford your education!


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