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How Long Does FAFSA Take to Process? FAFSA Delays Explained

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By Ana Boskovic on March, 8 2024 | 5 minute read

Submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial step for millions of students applying to college and paying for tuition. Due to the complexity of the FAFSA process, families have grappled with the uncertainty about FAFSA processing time and potential delays with their submissions. 

Unfortunately, for the 2024-2025 academic year, the Class of 2027 graduates are experiencing firsthand the issues surrounding recent FAFSA delays that have left many families anxious about scholarships, financial aid, and funding for college.

What is FAFSA?

Federal Student Aid, a part of the U.S. Department of Education, is the largest provider of student financial aid in the nation,” says the FAFSA website. FAFSA is responsible for informing and providing families with available federal student aid. 

Each year, FAFSA applications open by October 1 for students to begin filling out and submitting their FAFSA forms. 

Students may receive several types of financial aid after submitting their FAFSA application. Some may be:

  • Grants
  • Scholarships
  • Loans (federal or private)
  • Work-study

Why is FAFSA Important?

As we’ve mentioned, with the rise in college costs, many families find it difficult to pay for college out of pocket. This is even more so when they begin to calculate actual costs beyond just tuition. Students will be expected to pay additional fees for textbooks, travel, housing, food, and other accommodations during their time in college. FAFSA makes paying for college easier for millions of families. 

Equally important is the information transmitted to colleges and universities for financial or institutional aid determinations and other purposes. Without the information from the FAFSA, many colleges would be left in the dark about what type of aid their students may require.

How Long Does FAFSA Take to Process?

If you’re applying to college or have already applied, you are likely familiar with the college application timeline and the various deadlines associated with it. For the FAFSA timeline, here is what you need to know:

  • FAFSA is released and available for students to complete around early October

  • Colleges begin receiving FAFSA data and begin packaging student aid to include any US federal financial aid they're eligible to receive

  • Official financial aid packages are sent out to students before Early Decision, Early Action, and Regular Decision results are released to students

Overall, FAFSA takes about 3 days to 3 weeks to process depending on if you filled out your form online or by hand. From there, the schools will use the data received to prepare your financial aid package. 

2024-2025 FAFSA Delays Explained

Now that we’re familiar with the traditional FAFSA processing, it’s time to discuss the recent delays that have caused students more anxiety in recent weeks. 

This year’s FAFSA proceedings have been met with delay after delay. The first notice to families informed them that the FAFSA application would not be available until late December, as opposed to the usual mid-October. 

Although applications opening later than expected isn’t the worst thing in the world, it did add fuel to the fire when families were unable to create their Federal Student ID accounts to complete their FAFSA applications. FAFSA glitches caused a myriad of problems for users, many of whom were unable to access the platform until early in January 2024, weeks after it went live. 

These unfortunate circumstances were followed by an official announcement that indicated colleges would not be receiving student data until mid-March. With acceptance deadlines fast approaching on April 1, students will have very little time to review their financial aid packages (if at all) before they select their top college choice. 

Good news? Colleges are navigating this unprecedented situation like families, and many are issuing commitment deadline extensions to June to ensure students have enough time to consider their financial aid packages. 

FAFSA Delays: What's Next?

Colleges are set to receive FAFSA data in 2 short weeks, but the goalposts could move again. In fact, Collegewise expects this may happen. Unfortunately, many college admissions and financial aid experts are also in the waiting game where a lot depends on what occurs behind the FAFSA scenes. However, Collegewise is monitoring the situation to provide timely updates to families.

Students who have already submitted their FAFSA should remain diligent about announcements or ongoing updates. 

Students who have yet to submit their FAFSA, which may be true given the June 30 deadline, be sure to get your application submitted as soon as possible to avoid any further delays.

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About Us: With more than twenty years of experience, Collegewise counselors and tutors are at the forefront of the ever-evolving admissions landscape. Our work has always centered on you: the family. And just like we’ve always done, we look for ways for your student to be their best self - whether in the classroom, the applications, or in the right-fit college environment. Our range of counselingtest prepacademic tutoring, and essay management, all with the support of our proprietary platform, lead to 4x higher than average admissions rates. 


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