FAFSA form for college financial aid finally opening in soft launch

The federal form for students to apply for college financial aid is finally opening in a soft launch, according to StudentAid.gov.

Students have been waiting through a three-month delay while the 2024-25 school year Free Application for Federal Student Aid underwent a streamlining overhaul.


The StudentAid.gov website said on Friday morning that the FAFSA form "is available periodically."  However, an alert at the top of the page says due to planned maintenance, students can't log on until 4:00 p.m. ET on Friday, Dec. 29.

This week, the U.S. Department of Education said in a statement, "The FAFSA form will be available to students and families periodically while we monitor site performance and form functionality."

Students must submit FAFSA forms to qualify for federal, state and school-based aid, and are encouraged to apply early, as some aid is first come, first served.

"Obviously, if the site is bogged down and has problems, they may have to wait. But if you can try to fill it out completely early on, that's a good idea.  But there are at least a few months that students have to be able to submit the FAFSA," explained Jennifer Finetti with Scholarship Owl.

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The Education Department says it will save applications submitted during the soft launch, and send those students' eligibility information to schools and states in late January.

Applicants can save time by setting up the required FSA ID on StudentAid.gov beforehand, as it can take three days.

Changes to the 2024-25 FAFSA include a shorter form.

"It used to have 108 questions, and now it only has 36, so it should be a much better process for everyone," said Finetti.

Another change means 610,000 students from low-income households are expected to qualify for Pell Grants of up to $7,395.  

But the new FAFSA formula ends the sibling discount for families with multiple students attending college at the same time.

"Previously, if you did have more than one child in college at the same time, that was actually a benefit and it boosted your eligibility. But going forward, that will not be the case," said Finetti.

Students are urged to check StudentAid.gov for application updates.