MONEYSCHOOL'S Simplified Guide
to FAFSA and Federal Student Aid

Section 12: When to Apply

You can submit your FAFSA for the 2010-11 academic year as early as January 1, 2010, but not before.  The official deadline for submitting a FAFSA for the 2010-11 academic year is not until June 30 2011, but don’t let that confuse you.  If you want to start receiving aid in the Fall of 2010, you should apply as early as possible in 2010.  Some federal student aid is awarded on a first-come-first-served basis, so submit your FAFSA as soon after January 1 as possible.

Your FAFSA may be used to determine your eligibility for some state grant programs as well as for federal aid, and March 1 is the application deadline for many states programs.  Some may have even earlier deadlines.  Check with the financial aid administrators at schools where you are applying to get more specific information. 

Important tip: To apply for non-federal aid, some schools may also require you to complete the CSS/Financial Aid Profile, which is administered by a division of the College Board. For more information, click here .

Since you may be submitting your FAFSA before you know where you have been accepted to school, you can choose to have it transmitted to multiple schools—up to ten if you submit the online version of FAFSA.  

Even if you don’t expect to be eligible for state aid, it is wise to submit your FAFSA no later than the end of April.  Once your FAFSA is processed, you will receive a student aid report (SAR).  The SAR is discussed in the next section.

FAFSA requires information from your federal income tax return for the previous year.  Federal income tax returns don’t have to be filed until April 15, and W-2s may not be mailed by employers until the end of January. 

It is best to complete your tax return before filling out the FAFSA, if possible.  If the necessary tax returns have not been completed by the time you submit your FAFSA, you can apply using estimated amounts initially, and submit corrected data when it is available.