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College & Career Training in Alaska

Today, October 1, is the first day that you will be able to complete your 2020-2021 FAFSA.  Whether you are currently a senior in high school or a student who has more years of postsecondary education ahead, you will need to complete it if you want federal aid.  Here are some common questions we receive in our office regarding the FAFSA.

What is the FAFSA?

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, is used to determine financial aid on local, state, and federal levels.  The aid includes grants, scholarships, work-study, and loans.

Why so early?

Several years ago, the FAFSA opened in January prior to fall enrollment.  However, this left students scrambling at the last minute trying to decide which school to attend since they  were waiting to see their eligibility for various types of financial aid before deciding.  Now that it opens in October (the year before fall enrollment), it allows ample time for students to make informed decisions on where to attend based on financial aid award packages that may arrive at the same time as admissions letters..  For the 2020-2021 FAFSA, you will need yours and your parents’ 2018 tax information, if you are a dependent student.  Independent students will only need their 2018 tax information.

Is there a benefit to do it early?

There are several benefits to applying early.  The FAFSA takes about an hour to complete, but there may be other requirements such as FAFSA verification, master promissory note, and entrance loan counseling.  These requirements  will need to be completed  before funding is released.  Additionally, grant aid may be on a first come first served basis, so you want to fill out your FAFSA as soon as possible.  If you delay your FAFSA towards the winter months or even spring, you may get a reduced amount of grant aid from local and state agencies.

Do I have to fill out the FAFSA every year?

If you plan on continuing your education, yes, you need to fill out the FAFSA  every year.  Luckily, after your first year of completing it, you can do what is called a FAFSA Renewal.  The FAFSA Renewal saves all of your information from the prior year, so you just need to update any addresses and new tax information.  The second-time around is much faster, in most cases. 

If you have any questions about how to complete your FAFSA, please come by the ACPE Success Center located at the Dimond Center Mall.  For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call us at 1 (800) 441-2962, option #4.

About the Author

Tyler Eggen

Tyler Eggen

Tyler is Alaskan born and educated, with over a decade of experience in higher education & student affairs.  When he is not serving the next generation of postsecondary education students, he enjoys spending time outdoors while hunting and fishing.

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