The FAFSA is Open For 2021-22. Here's What You Need To Know

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as the FAFSA, unlocks college financial aid from the federal government, states and schools. Submitting it is one of the most pivotal steps in the college application process—and you can cross it off your list for the 2021-22 school year beginning today.

The FAFSA is available each year on Oct. 1 for the following school year. That means it opens today for students planning to attend college in 2021-22. Particularly at this moment, next fall may seem like a long time from now.

But even if your college plans are up in the air for next year, submit the FAFSA as soon as possible. You want to be first in line for financial aid in case you attend next fall, and some types of aid are first-come, first-served.

Here’s why it’s important to fill out the FAFSA as soon as possible, and how to do it.

Submit Early to Qualify for as Much Aid as Possible

The coronavirus crisis, the upcoming election and back-to-school chaos has led to a lot of understandable stress for students and parents this fall. But now that the FAFSA is available, filling it out should be at the top of every high school senior and college student’s to-do list. If you submit the FAFSA early, you’ll have a better shot at:


  • Federal work-study and Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants. The federal work-study and Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) programs provide schools a limited amount of funding. Schools then award students that funding on a first-come, first-served basis until it runs out. Submitting the FAFSA early increases the likelihood that you’ll get financial aid through these programs. FSEOG grants in particular are geared toward students with especially high financial need.
  • State aid. Many states also award grants on a first-come, first-served basis, and they use the FAFSA to distribute that aid. Check your state’s FAFSA deadline and make sure to submit by then. Some states, like Alaska, note that it’s best to apply “as soon as possible after Oct. 1, 2020,” since state grant funds will be awarded to applicants until they’re gone.
  • School aid. Colleges often have their own FAFSA deadlines, including “priority deadlines” by which students must apply to get aid distributed directly by the school. Check each school you’re applying to and make sure you’ve submitted the FAFSA by the earliest listed deadline.


Make Sure Your FSA ID Works—Now

To complete and sign the FAFSA, the student, along with his or her parents or spouse contributing information to the form, must create a Federal Student Aid ID. You can set one up any time—not just after Oct. 1—and it’s important to do so as soon as possible.

That’s because you may have issues with your FSA ID that could prevent you from submitting the FAFSA on time. It’s crucial to get these problems sorted out so you can complete the form early in the process. Potential problems include:


  • Forgotten username or password
  • Issues verifying your account via mobile number or email
  • A mismatch in the personal information you provided when setting up your FSA ID and the information on file with Social Security Administration


Once you have an FSA ID, you can complete and submit the FAFSA online at

Know You Can Appeal For More Financial Aid

The FAFSA uses income information from two years prior to the year you apply, meaning that information could be out of date. Don’t let that keep you from filling out the form and boosting your chances of receiving aid you need. Know that you’re not stuck with the first round of financial aid the school you choose awards you.

Say between now and next fall, you or your parent or spouse experience a major event like a lost job or a reduction in income that qualifies you for more need-based financial aid. In that case, you can appeal for more aid later on.

Once you receive financial aid awards and know which school you want to attend, contact that college directly. The financial aid office will likely ask you to fill out a form explaining that you have “special circumstances” that necessitate a change in your aid award. You’ll need to provide documentation of these circumstances. Be sure to follow up if necessary and stay vocal so that you get the help you deserve.

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