Paying for college: Why file the FAFSA early?

We get it. You’ve just started your senior year. You’re busy making memories! And now people are pushing you to file the FAFSA. You may not have even chosen a school – let alone applied – and they want you to start thinking about paying for college? Let us tell you why it’s a good idea to file the FAFSA early…

First, what is the FAFSA?

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) allows you to apply for financial aid for college or graduate school.

When should I file the FAFSA?

Anytime after Oct. 1, 2020, you can file applications for the 2021-22 academic year at You will use tax year 2019 forms to fill out the FAFSA. There is no danger in filing early and no need to wait until you know all of the colleges you are interested in.

To file, students and at least one parent needs to have an electronic signature, called the FSA ID. This step can be completed before Oct. 1 at

Why should I file early?

After you file, the colleges that accept you are able to send you an official financial aid award letter. This letter outlines the how much and the type of scholarship and/or need-based aid you will receive. The earlier you file the FAFSA, the earlier you receive financial aid information and can start comparing your choices. And, filing early ensures you will not miss important deadlines.

How do the colleges/universities I’m interested in receive my FAFSA application?

You can list up to 10 colleges to receive your FAFSA application. Add or drop colleges to your list any time until you begin college. While you can start visiting colleges earlier, FAFSA forms cannot be filed until your senior year of high school.

What happens after I file?

Students who are admitted at the college of their choice and have their FAFSA on file early should receive award letters between November and January. Colleges may follow-up with applicants and parents to verify the information by submitting additional household or tax information.

I thought the FAFSA filing start date was in January?

A few years ago, the FAFSA filing start date changed from Jan. 1 of a student’s high school senior year to Oct. 1 of the senior year. This allows families to make financially-informed decisions earlier in the college selection process.


The Bluffton University financial aid staff is committed to answering your questions and connecting you with the resources available to meet your goals. Feel free to ask us general questions about financial aid. Topics may include federal and state issues, the financial aid application process, grant and loan issues and any other questions you may have.

You do not have to be a current or potential Bluffton University student to use this service. Our advice is available to everyone!