FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The FAFSA is an application to apply for federal and state aid for colleges and universities. You must submit the FAFSA every year if you want to be considered for federal and/or state aid.

The 2017-2018 FAFSA has changed. 

What is Early FAFSA and Prior-Prior Year?

In September 2015 President Obama announced that beginning in the 2017-2018 academic year financial aid data would change on the FAFSA to what is known as “prior-prior year.”   Historically, students enrolling for an academic year are required to use the most recent year tax information. For example, the 2014-2015 school year required the 2014 tax data and the 2015-2016 school year required the 2015 tax data. The change to prior-prior year will result in using the prior-prior year taxes.  For example, the 2017-2018 school year, you are required to use the 2015 tax data. 

The Early FAFSA initiative allows students to submit their FAFSA beginning October 1st versus the historic January 1st. 

Academic Year Tax Year FAFSA Available
2016-2017 2015 January 1, 2016
2017-2018 2016 October 1, 2016
2018-2019 2017 October 1, 2017

Simply put, what has changed?

  • The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) will be made available to all students for early submission starting October 1st instead of January 1st. 
  • The FAFSA will use information from the prior-prior year (PPY) tax return instead of the previous year’s tax return (ex. 2015 Tax Return used to complete the FAFSA for 2017-2018 school year).

To learn more  about the 2017-2018 changes from studentaid.gov please click here.

Why are these changes beneficial?

  • Students will not have to use estimated tax data or wait until their taxes are complete to apply for financial aid. The prior-prior tax year information needed should already be completed for most students by October 1st.
  • More families will be able to, and are encouraged to, use the built-in link to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), known as the Data Retrieval  Tool (DRT) to import income information into the FAFSA. 
  • If a student is selected for verification the Federal Tax Transcripts will be available on the IRS website. 

Learn more about the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) here

Why should students file a FAFSA early?

  • Some financial aid funding is limited. The earlier you apply, the more likely it is that you will be awarded these funds if you qualify.
  • Applying early may give you the information you need to make informed decisions about financial planning and college selection.

By filing the FAFSA earlier, will students know their financial aid package earlier?

There are several factors in determining financial aid awards that may not be available to financial aid offices in October. Final costs for tuition, fees, and residential fees (room and board) are often set later in the year.  Also, final federal and state grant award formulas may not yet be approved by federal and state legislatures. Some financial aid offices will provide estimated information until these decisions are made final.

What if a family's current income is very different from the PPY tax return?

Now that the FAFSA will be based on prior-prior year income, some families may find that their income from two years ago is very different than what their income will actually be for the school year for which the student is applying for financial aid.  In cases where the student or parental income will be less for the school year in question, the student may want to request a Change in Financial Status Request Form by emailing finaid@chowan.edu.

For Chowan's Financial Aid forms, click here

What information should families use?

Below is an example for the 2017-2018 FAFSA that families will use to complete information. 

Information Used

Timeframe Used to Provide Information

Income Information  
Adjusted Gross Income 2015 (prior-prior year)
Income Taxes Paid 2015 (prior-prior year)
Income Earned From Work 2015 (prior-prior year)
Untaxed Income 2015 (prior-prior year)
Asset Data  
Balance of cash, checking/savings accounts, investments, etc. As of the date the FAFSA is filed
Household Information  
Household Size Expected for 2017-18 award year
Number in College Expected for 2017-18 award year
Parent Marital Status As of the date the FAFSA is filed


Start our FAFSA now, at https://fafsa.gov/