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What you need to know about the new FAFSA

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  • Ringing in the new year with the long awaited new @FAFSA? Here is your go-to guide for students, parents, counselors, and other external partners. #nced
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Federal Student Aid (FSA) soft launched the 2024–25 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form Dec. 31, 2023 with some big changes for students, families, and counselors, according to this press release.

Students who plan to attend college between July 1, 2024 and June 30, 2025 need to complete the form.

Here is the much awaited new FAFSA experience for students. Here are directions on how to fill out the FAFSA form.

Students should create their account before starting the FAFSA form, and will need to be careful to enter their name and Social Security number (SSN) exactly as they appear on their Social Security card.

For students without a SSN, here are step-by-step instructions to successfully create their account.

Here is what we know about the soft launch

During the soft launch, the FAFSA form will be available periodically as Federal Student Aid monitors site performance, conducts planned pauses for maintenance, and makes updates to improve the user experience for students and families.

According to the press release, “If you do submit your form during the soft launch, your information will be saved, and you won’t need to resubmit your form or any related information. If your form is unavailable when you or your family members try to access it, please try again later.”

Applicants may also experience a waiting room feature, which will help control website traffic to ensure optimal performance of the form.

If FSA initiates site maintenance while a student or contributor — anyone (the student, their spouse, a biological or adoptive parent, or their parent’s spouse) who’s required to provide information on the FAFSA form — is completing an application, they will be able to continue and complete the form.

If a student completes their FAFSA form, but a contributor cannot access the site during a period when the site is unavailable, the contributor can return to complete their portion of the form as soon as the site becomes available again. 

What documents are needed to fill out the FAFSA?

Once they set up a account, students might need the following information or documents as they fill out the 2024–25 FAFSA form:

  • Their parents’ SSNs if they’re a dependent student.
  • Tax returns for 2022.
  • Records of child support received.
  • Current balances of cash, savings, and checking accounts.
  • Net worth of investments, businesses, and farm.

What happens after students submit the FAFSA?

When students submit their completed 2024–25 FAFSA form, they’ll get an email confirming that the form was received with preliminary information related to their eligibility for federal student aid. This will include their estimated Student Aid Index (SAI) (formerly the estimated family contribution) and estimated eligibility for Federal Pell Grants.

Federal Student Aid will provide their FAFSA eligibility information to the college(s) and state in late January. Once their college(s) receive their FAFSA information, the college(s) will provide the student with personalized aid information.

Federal Student Aid will send send students an email when their FAFSA information has been sent to their selected schools and when they can access their FAFSA Submission Summary on The FAFSA Submission Summary will provide their official SAI calculation and Federal Pell Grant eligibility.

Students can check the status of their FAFSA form on in late January.

Given the late rollout of FAFSA, what are the deadlines for student aid?

Completing the FAFSA form allows students to be considered for federal student aid. In addition, states and colleges use FAFSA information to award their own grants, scholarships, and loans. 

For students who want to apply for state aid in North Carolina, the deadline for priority consideration for UNC System colleges is June 1, 2024, and the deadline for community colleges is Aug. 15, 2024. Those are the deadlines, but students should know that awards are made until all funds are depleted, so applying early is important.

Visit for more information. Here are the deadlines in North Carolina as well as other states.

What’s new with FAFSA?

According to the press release, “The 2024–25 FAFSA form expands eligibility for federal student aid, including Pell Grants, and provides a streamlined user experience. 610,000 new students from low-income backgrounds will be eligible to receive Federal Pell Grants due to updates to student aid calculations. Plus, applicants will be able to skip as many as 26 questions, depending on their individual circumstances. Some applicants could answer as few as 18 questions, which could take less than 10 minutes.”

This article details the seven key changes coming to the 2024-25 FAFSA experience.

Courtesy of Federal Student Aid

Where can you find the financial aid toolkit?

Here is the financial aid toolkit for counselors, institutions, financial aid administrators, college access professionals, and other external partners.

Federal Student Aid suggests that as you plan your FAFSA completion events, you may want to consider the possible impact of the soft launch and delays it might create in accessing the form during January 2024. FSA recommends scheduling these events for later in January 2024 and February 2024 to account for the soft launch period, in the event there is planned site maintenance that could impact events.

Here is a presentation you can use with students.

Here is a webinar to help you guide students with special and unusual circumstances, including students who are at risk of or experiencing homelessness, through the FAFSA process.

As a result of the phased implementation of the 2024–25 FAFSA process, detailed school-level data on FAFSA completions will not be available until April 2024.

Stakeholders should bookmark this page for regular updates and resources related to the 2024-25 FAFSA launch.

Mebane Rash

Mebane Rash is the CEO and editor-in-chief of EducationNC.