The notoriously complicated and frustrating federal student loan application, also known as FAFSA (for Free Application for Federal Student Aid), has recently undergone a simplification transformation

The form, which historically involved some 100 questions, has been pared down to just around 20. It will also automatically pull tax data from the Internal Revenue Service, removing a bulk of the most confusing and time-consuming aspects of the form, and is now expected to take about 10 minutes to fill out.

According to the Federal Student Aid website, other changes to the form include updated income calculations as well as an expansion of eligibility for Pell grants to 600,000 new students from low-income backgrounds. Additionally, once the FAFSA is completed, you now have the option to send it to up to 20 colleges and career or trade schools.

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As Kiplinger previously reported, the sooner you file the FAFSA to get aid for college, the more likely you are to qualify for a greater amount of aid.

But, according to a November 15 Washington Post report, while the new process and adjustments to the student loan form and program will help streamline the process, the rollout has not. Due to the “complexity of the changes,” the forms, which are typically available beginning October 1, are not available this year until December 31.

As a result, students and their families now have less time between applying, finding out what they’re eligible for and deciding on a school.

“Any significant delays in delivering applicant data to schools would fall short of the spirit of the law, leaving the most vulnerable student populations in limbo as they wait for the financial aid information they need to make vital college-going decisions,” Justin Draeger, president of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, said in the report. 

The updated guidelines could also mean those with higher incomes may not be eligible to receive as much aid as they have been in years past.

How to apply

 To apply and check on the status of your loan, all students and their contributors (which are determined by tax and marital status) must sign up for a username and password on the Federal Student Aid website. There, students can also determine if their parents or spouses need to be listed as contributors, and find all the forms necessary to fill out the FAFSA.

You can also refer to the 2024-25 FAFSA FAQ playlist on YouTube for more information on how and when to apply.