"March 1: To most, this date seems benign. Payday. Rent is due. But for college advisers in North Carolina, starting in January, our hands started to sweat as March 1 loomed," Rachel Worsham and Rachel Gentry, college advisers with Carolina College Advising Corps, write in a blog entry for the National College Access Network (NCAN).
"Frantic, pleading emails were sent, and a general sense of panic set in. Why, you may ask? March 1 is North Carolina’s priority deadline for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Meaning, in order to be eligible for full financial aid packages, high school seniors and college students across the state had only two months to ensure their parents filed taxes for the previous year, and to then submit a FAFSA. However, we were thrilled that for the 2017-18 cycle, students could begin applying for aid as early as Oct. 1. The policy changes surrounding the FAFSA have been nothing short of game-changing for the work of 'College Access Gladiators' across the country. ...
The bottom line is that these changes to the FAFSA have already made a powerful difference. We’re delighted to report that there has been an increase in the overall rate at which students at College Advising Corps partner schools across the nation are completing their FAFSAs: The students we serve filed 6,600 more FAFSAs within the first six weeks after the form became available in October for the 2017-18 school year than they did during the first six weeks of the 2016-17 cycle, when the form became available in January. ...
Moreover, these new policies surrounding the FAFSA have changed the nature of the conversations college access professionals have with first-semester high school seniors. The vast majority of students are -- understandably -- most concerned with financing their college education. It is not uncommon for the first words we hear from a senior in August to be 'How do I find scholarships?' or 'There is no way my family can pay for college,' often before even discussing where they want to apply.
Rather than saying 'Wait until January and get your taxes done ASAP,' we can now give students a tangible step to take much earlier, on Oct. 1: 'Get your FAFSA done.' These changes have not only helped college access professionals by placing the application and financial aid processes on the same timeline, but have also altered the way students approach the college-going process."
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Publication Date: 2/24/2017