Resources › For Students and Parents When Should You Submit the FAFSA? Early is better when filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid Share Flipboard Email Print When filling out the FAFSA, earlier is better. JGI/Jamie Grill / Getty Images For Students and Parents College Admissions College Financial Aid College Admissions Process College Profiles College Rankings Choosing A College Application Tips Essay Samples & Tips Testing Graphs Extracurricular Activities Advanced Placement Homework Help Private School Test Prep College Life Graduate School Business School Law School Distance Learning View More By McKenna Miller Updated July 29, 2020 If you're a United States resident and you are applying to a domestic college, you should fill out the FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. At nearly all schools, the FAFSA is the basis for need-based financial aid awards. The state and federal submission dates for the FAFSA changed significantly in 2016. You can now apply in October rather than waiting until January. FAFSA Dates and Deadlines You can use tax forms from two years ago to fill out the FAFSA beginning on October 1st. The federal deadline for completing the FAFSA is June 30th, but state and college deadlines are likely to be earlier. For new college students, earlier is often better for filling out the FAFSA since financial aid budgets can become depleted late in the admissions cycle. When and How to Fill Out the FAFSA The federal deadline for the FAFSA is June 30th, but you should apply much earlier than that. In order to receive the highest amount of aid, you should submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as possible as of October 1st of the year before you will be attending college. This is because most colleges award some kinds of aid on a first-come, first-served basis. Colleges can and will check to see when you submitted your FAFSA and will award aid accordingly. In the past, many college applicants put off filling out the FAFSA until their families had completed their taxes since the form asks for tax information. However, this is not necessary because of the changes made to the FAFSA in 2016. You can now use your prior-prior year tax return when filling out the FAFSA. For example, if you're planning to enter college in the fall of 2020, you can fill out your FAFSA beginning October 1st of 2019 using your 2018 tax return. Before you sit down to fill out the application, make sure you have gathered all the documents you'll need to answer all the FAFSA questions. This will make the process much more efficient and less frustrating. It is important to note that colleges that offer institutional aid often will require you to submit different forms in addition to the FAFSA. For example, many schools require the CSS Profile. Be sure to check with your school's financial aid office to know exactly what kinds of aid are available and what you can do to receive them. If you receive any information requests from your college related to financial aid, make sure you respond as quickly as possible. This will help ensure that you get the maximum amount of financial aid and that you get it on time. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact your school's financial aid office. NOTE: When submitting the FAFSA, make sure you are submitting it for the right year. All too often, parents or students will run into problems after accidentally sending in the FAFSA for the wrong school year. Get started with your application at the FAFSA website. State Deadlines for the FAFSA Although the federal deadline for filing the FAFSA is June 30th, state deadlines are often much earlier than end of June, and students who put off filing the FAFSA may find that they are ineligible for many types of financial aid. The table below provides a sample of some state deadlines, but be sure to check with the FAFSA website to make sure you have the most up-to-date information. Sample FAFSA Deadlines State Deadlines Alaska Alaska Education Grants are awarded soon after October 1st. Awards are made until funds are depleted. Arkansas Academic Challenge and Higher Education Opportunity Grants have a June 1st deadline. California Many state programs have a March 2nd deadline. Connecticut For priority consideration, submit the FAFSA by February 15th. Delaware April 15th Florida May 15th Idaho March 1st deadline for the state's Opportunity Grant Illinois Submit the FAFSA as soon after October 1st as possible. Awards are made until funds are depleted. Indiana March 10th Kentucky As soon after October 1st as possible. Awards are made until funds are depleted. Maine May 1st Massachusetts May 1st Missouri February 1st for priority consideration. Applications accepted through April 2nd. North Carolina As soon after October 1st as possible. Awards are made until funds are depleted. South Carolina As soon after October 1st as possible. Awards are made until funds are depleted. Washington State As soon after October 1st as possible. Awards are made until funds are depleted. Other Sources for Financial Aid The FAFSA is essential for nearly all state, federal, and institutional financial aid awards. Keep in mind, however, that there are millions of dollars of college scholarship funds out there awarded by private organizations. Be sure to explore websites such as scholarships.com, fastweb.com, and cappex.com to identify awards for which you might qualify. Cite this Article Format mla apa chicago Your Citation Miller, McKenna. "When Should You Submit the FAFSA?" ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, thoughtco.com/when-should-you-apply-for-fafsa-788491. Miller, McKenna. (2020, August 27). When Should You Submit the FAFSA? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/when-should-you-apply-for-fafsa-788491 Miller, McKenna. "When Should You Submit the FAFSA?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/when-should-you-apply-for-fafsa-788491 (accessed August 2, 2021). copy citation Watch Now: What Is a Need-Based Scholarship? What Is the FAFSA? Documents You'll Need to Fill Out the FAFSA What is a Federal Pell Grant? What Is the CSS Profile for Financial Aid? How to Get Help Filling out the FAFSA Application Marital Status and Financial Aid Month-by-Month Senior Year College Application Deadlines Application Deadlines for Top Colleges and Universities What Is Rolling Admission? Timeline for Applying to Graduate School What Is Early Decision? How to Get a GRE Voucher and Other Discounts on the Test Learn About College Scholarships for Homeschoolers Should I Drop a Class? Grant and Scholarship Resources for Minorities What Are the Best Work Study Jobs?