There are two big changes coming to the FAFSA, Free Application For Student Aid, on October 1st. The FAFSA will now be available 3 months earlier than it traditionally has been. No longer will you have to wait until January 1st to complete the form. Now you can apply as early as October 1st. In addition, the federal tax return you will use to complete the form will be the “Prior-Prior” Year (PPY) return, as the Department of Education is calling it. For the 2017-2018 FAFSA you will use your 2015 return. (If you applied for aid during 2016-2017, you also used your 2015 return.)
What is the significance of the changes? The earlier FAFSA availability assists students applying for Early Decision and Early Action Admissions. Currently families have to use the CSS Profile for ED and EA. There fees associated with the CSS Profile (registration and for each college/university the results are sent to in your behalf). The FAFSA is a free application.
In addition, because the tax return used is the PPY, you will not have to wait until you complete your federal return or estimated your income. Also, business owners, will not be disadvantaged if they typically file tax returns later in the year. They would have their completed PPY return by October.
This chart from the USDepartment of Education shows the changes for 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 FAFSA.