San Marcos,
09:57 AM

Five Ways to Prepare for FAFSA Changes

By Katie Chappell

With the fall 2016 semester just a few weeks old, students are probably not planning for fall 2017 just yet, but the CSUSM Financial Aid & Scholarships Office hopes they will be.

This year, changes to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) allow students to begin submitting the national financial aid form for the 2017-18 school year as early as Oct. 1, 2016, three months earlier than the previous application timeline.

“The FAFSA has never been easier to submit,” said Scott Hagg, associate vice president of Enrollment Management Services. “It is free and takes only 15 minutes to complete online. Students should submit their FAFSA between October 1 and March 2 to increases their chances of accessing financial aid funds.”

Applicants will now base their applications on federal tax returns from the year prior, rather than having to guess at the current year’s tax information. For students and families applying for federal aid for fall 2017, this means they will use information from their 2015 tax returns.

The changes are designed to make the financial aid process easier and smoother for applicants. Here are some additional tips as you prepare for the financial aid application season:

  1. Apply on time. For the best opportunity to receive financial aid awards, apply between Oct. 1, 2016 and March 2, 2017.
  2. Prepare to apply. Information on how to apply for the FAFSA can be found on our website: or you can navigate directly to to get started.
  3. Apply, even if you’re not sure you qualify. If you don’t complete the FAFSA, you will not receive any financial aid. Students won’t know if they qualify unless they submit the FAFSA.
  4. Report last year’s tax data. One of the biggest changes to the FAFSA process this year is the new tax reporting data. You should report your 2015 tax information.
  5. Check back in March. Financial aid awards will be communicated to qualifying students in March 2017.

The Financial Aid & Scholarships Office will hold multiple FAFSA workshops in October to assist current students in completing the 2017-18 FAFSA. View more information on the changes and the workshop schedule here:

For new students, applications for admission for the 2017-18 school year will also open on Oct. 1, 2016. Apply at: