College students have known about the FAFSA form for years. They know if they fill out the FAFSA they just might get some funding for college. The FAFSA is used to determine eligibility for Federal Pell Grants, federal student loans, work-study, and a myriad of other types of financial aid specific to each college.

And there’s a significant change to FAFSA in the works: the early registration date.

Bryan Erslan, the director of Student Financial Assistance and Scholarships, said the early registration date for the 2017-18 FAFSA has changed from Jan. 1 to Oct. 1, meaning students seeking financial aid for the next academic year may submit their FAFSA three months earlier than in prior years. The change, Erslan said, is a permanent one. And it’s not the only change.

Erslan said that beginning with FAFSA applications for the next school year, students will submit tax information for the tax year that is two years earlier as opposed to one year earlier. For the 2016-17 academic year, for example, students provided tax information from 2015, the prior tax year. Beginning with the 2017-18 school year, however, students will submit tax information for the tax year that is two years prior. This too is a permanent change, Erslan said.

The changes are designed to make the FAFSA easier to complete and to help new students learn at an earlier date about their financial aid prospects.

Unfortunately, the earlier registration date is only helpful to new incoming students. Erslan said returning students will not be awarded aid until their grades are reviewed for both fall and spring semesters of the current academic year, as federal regulations require. Those students will be awarded as usual in mid to late May of 2017. However, families of new students will have more time to get the form filled out, as well as getting their awards earlier, so they know what awards they are getting and can plan accordingly.

Though the date change will not benefit all students, Erslan said that the use of tax information on the FAFSA from two years prior still will prove helpful to both new students and those already enrolled. He said students usually have their tax information from two years prior by the October early submission date. As a result, students should no longer have to estimate their tax information while completing the FAFSA, which can prove difficult to do. Using accurate tax information also has the benefit of making it more likely that FAFSA forms will be accepted without being selected for verification, Erslan said. Erslan recommends that students fill out the FAFSA as early as possible, and no later than November 1 so that they are categorized as priority. He said the earlier students complete their FAFSA, the more likely that students ensure that they qualify for maximum student aid and that funds aren’t depleted before awards can be made. Erslan said the FAFSA form still should take only about half an hour to complete. And, Erslan said, if students have a difficult time filling out the form, they can stop by the Financial Aid Office, on the second floor of Whitlock, for help. Also, the Financial Aid Office is sponsoring two workshops, which are scheduled for 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Oct. 4 and again on Nov. 15 in the Student Success Center (located in the basement of the library) on, designed to help students understand and fill out their FAFSA forms.

To complete the FAFSA, students should go to www.FAFSA.ed.gov. Also, to get the login and password information used to complete the FAFSA students should go to FAFSAID.ed.gov.