What are the changes?
There are two significant changes to the 2017-2018 Free
Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) process:
Beginning in fall, students will be able to file a 2017-2018 FAFSA
in October. This is instead of having to wait until January to do
so. Students having the option to file the FAFSA in October will be
a permanent change to the FAFSA process.
The second change pertains to the data students will submit on
the FAFSA. In the past, students had used tax information from the
prior year when completing the FAFSA. For example, students who
completed the FAFSA for the 2016-2017 school year used tax data
from their 2015 tax return.
Beginning with the 2017-2018 FAFSA, students will enter income
and tax information from an even earlier tax year. For the
2017-2018 FAFSA, students will use tax information
from two years prior to the academic year they are
applying for. This means that filers will use 2015 tax data to
apply for financial aid for the 2017-2018 academic year.
Below is a chart to clarify what income and tax data will be
used for each academic year:
As confusing as this may appear, the actual act of submitting
the information should be fairly easy. That’s because when a
student files online, most are able to use the IRS data retrieval
tool. The IRS data retrieval tool allows a FAFSA filer to
transfer their IRS tax return information from the IRS website
directly into their FAFSA. This cuts down on the amount of
time it takes to complete the application, as well as decreases
room for error.
How will these changes help students?
These changes to the FAFSA will benefit filers in several
First, since students will have the option to submit their
FAFSAs earlier, they are able to position themselves to
receive financial aid packages sooner. If an incoming freshman is
trying to decide which school to attend, receiving aid packages
sooner will allow him more time to make a decision and explore
options. This opens the door to better planning since students (and
parents) may end up with more information, earlier.
Second, the switch to using prior-prior year data also means
that FAFSA filers will no longer need to estimate the figures
on their applications, only to have to update the numbers later
once they file their taxes. Since filers will be using tax data
from two years prior, the information they need to submit should
already be available.
What do students need to know for the 2017-2018 academic
If you are attending school during the 2017-2018 academic year,
your FAFSA filing process will be a bit different. You will be able
to file the FAFSA as early as October. The 2017-2018
application will be the first FAFSA to require prior-prior year
data. On this FAFSA, students will submit income tax data from
As you may have noticed, students will use income tax
information from 2015 for two years in a row on their FAFSAs.
Unfortunately, this does not mean that their financial aid package
for two years in a row will definitely remain the same. Students
will still need to submit data representing the total value of
their current assets at the time they are completing the
For example, if a student inherits a farm or hits the lottery in
September of 2016 – even though she is submitting 2015 tax data for
the second time - she will need to report her good fortune on the
Also, the Department of Education’s formula to determine the
Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is subject to change each year.
(The EFC is used to determine need-based aid eligibility; it is
calculated according to a formula established by federal law.)
Most importantly – file your FAFSA!
Remember, you won’t know what financial aid – and potentially
free money – is out there for you unless you file the FAFSA. The
best way to do so is to file online at the Federal Student Aid FAFSA website
(fafsa.ed.gov). Be sure to
file every year, and always strive to use the most
accurate information you have available.
If you have questions about the FAFSA or how to complete it,
call 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243).
College Students and Parents: What You Need to Know About the
2017-18 FAFSA – flyer provided by Federal Student Aid, an
office of the U.S. Department of Education
Overview - video provided by Federal Student Aid, an office of
the U.S. Department of Education
What's New for the 2017–18 FAFSA? Basics for Parents and College
Students – PowerPoint provided by Federal Student Aid, an
office of the U.S. Department of Education