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Student Loans

Important FAFSA Deadlines for Financial Aid

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) unlocks the most important piece of many students’ college financing plans. If you don’t complete it on time, you may not be eligible for any financial aid from the government or even your own college. 

The 2024 – 2025 FAFSA opened in December 2023 and closes on June 30, 2025. If you need to make any corrections to your FAFSA, you have until September 14, 2025, to do it.  

In contrast, the 2023 – 2024 FAFSA opened up on October 1, 2022, and will close on June 30, 2024. You have until September 14, 2024, to make any corrections. Keep in mind these are the federal FAFSA deadlines. Your state or college might have separate, earlier deadlines. We’ll also explore the other benefits of completing the FAFSA as early as possible.

FAFSA deadlines explained

The FAFSA has three separate deadlines you need to be aware of: Federal, state, and college each have their own deadlines to meet for a given school year. The federal FAFSA deadlines apply to everyone. You’ll have between December 2023 and June 30, 2024, to fill out the FAFSA for the 2024 – 2025 award year.

In addition, most states have separate FAFSA deadlines. These deadlines may be general—i.e., for all state-based aid combined—or for specific awards. For example, California students must have completed the FAFSA by March 2, 2024, for the Cal Grant and by April 2 for other California-specific awards. 

Individual schools may also set internal FAFSA deadlines. To find out, check with your school’s financial aid office. Make sure to set a reminder for these dates where you’ll see it, such as on your refrigerator or Google calendar.  

It’s important to act as soon as possible. Many types of financial aid pools are limited, and colleges dole them out on a first-come, first-served basis to those who qualify based on their FAFSA results. If you wait until later in the application period, you may miss out. 

An infographic providing information on what the FAFSA is, why students need it, and information and dates to know when filling it out.

What if you miss the FAFSA due date?

According to Sallie Mae’s 2023 survey of how students pay for college, almost 14% of people forget to submit the FAFSA by its deadline. You’re far from alone, but that doesn’t mean that it’ll be any easier for you. 

If you miss the FAFSA deadline, you can’t receive most types of financial aid, including federal student loans. There are no provisions for submitting a late FAFSA; once the deadline passes, it’s gone. This is why it’s so important to make sure you fill out the FAFSA on time.

After missing the FAFSA deadline, your first step is to check with your school’s financial aid office to see whether it can help you navigate your options. It may be able to help you locate other grants and scholarships that don’t rely on the FAFSA, such as those from businesses and nonprofits. 

Another option is to take out private student loans, but be sure to consider whether this is your best option. Private student loans come with fewer borrower protections, and you’ll often need a creditworthy cosigner to qualify. If all else fails, you may need to drop out of school until the next school year. 

How to fill out the FAFSA

Filling out the FAFSA used to be a time-consuming chore. It might not be a fun idea for a Friday date night, but it’s now a lot easier due to recent legislative changes that have shortened the FAFSA form. To get started, you (and your parents, if applicable) will need to make a StudentAid account. 

Next, gather up the financial information you’ll need, including:

  • Tax returns
  • Child support records
  • Current bank account balances
  • Current net worth of investments and businesses

Then, head to the online FAFSA application page. (You can also print it out, but applying online is easiest). You and your parents (if applicable) will both need to log in separately to complete your respective parts of the FAFSA application. Here’s what the page looks like:

A screenshot of the FAFSA application page.

The form will guide you through a list of questions. Depending on the complexity of your family’s financial situation, you may be able to complete the FAFSA in as few as 10 minutes. Once it’s finished, you can breathe a sigh of relief in knowing that you crossed this important item off your to-do list.