This year’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) process has two major changes aimed at making it easier for students to apply for financial aid.
The FAFSA for the 2017-18 academic year is available beginning Oct. 1, allowing students to apply three months earlier than previous years.
Another change is that students or their parents will provide household income information from an earlier tax year. For example, for the 2017-18 academic year they will report 2015 income data, rather than 2016 income information. This allows students and their parents to better utilize FAFSA’s Internal Revenue Service Data Retrieval Tool (IRS DRT) to upload federal tax information. Those who were not required to file a 2015 Federal Income Tax Return can use 2015 W-2 Form wages statements to report income.
Those changes also apply for students who plan to complete a 2017-18 California Dream Act Application (CADA).
“These updates will not likely translate into immediate changes in UC Merced’s admission decisions or financial aid award notification timelines,” Director of Financial Aid and Scholarships Ron Radney. “However, they are expected to make the application process much easier to complete.”
The FAFSA and CADA priority filing deadline in California is March 2, but students are encouraged to file as soon as possible.
Incoming UC Merced students are automatically considered for all institutional scholarships based on their admissions application data — and FAFSA/CADA data for need-based scholarships. Radney pointed out that many other colleges and universities have separate scholarship applications and deadlines. He urged students to research the scholarship application process at each campus they are applying to, as well as to work with their high school counselor for information on local and national scholarship opportunities.
“The most important piece of advice when applying for financial aid and scholarships is to educate yourself on the process by attending workshops and meeting with your high school counselor,” Radney said. “Also, ensure that you meet every deadline.”
High school seniors who have questions about completing the early FAFSA are encouraged to watch a video prepared by UC Merced’s Financial Aid and Scholarships office, or attend an upcoming high school workshop in their region.