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Fall Signing Week '16: What the FAFSA Changes Mean for Recruiting

In a rare move, deadlines changes been made to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, better known as FAFSA. These modifications have an impact on money available for financial scholarships, which can also change timing in the recruiting process.

The new rules apply to those who plan to start college in 2017 and beyond. The most important one is that students are now able to submit their FAFSA earlier than ever. The opening for filling out an application used to be January 1st. It was changed to October 1st, meaning prospective college students can go on to fafsa.ed.gov right now and start their forms.

This change has a lot of ramifications. For one thing, 2016 taxes will not be done on October 1st, and they aren't expected to be. The income and assets now provided is for 2015. So, both the 2016 freshman and 2017 FAFSA forms are to be based on 2015 taxes, indicating the income and assets the family had in 2015.

This is the start of the change, so the tax years will begin to even out: students going to college in 2018 will file the FAFSA based on 2016 taxes, students going to college in 2019 will file the FAFSA based on 2017 taxes, and so on. It will remain two years behind.

There are several important factors to remember in this change.

First, the change in the FAFSA deadline may not necessarily change the financial aid deadlines for schools. For example, if you file your 2015 taxes with your FAFSA for the 2017 school year, the school may still require 2016 taxes for their calculations and records. On the other hand, a school may now ask for financial information on your family in October, the year before you start, rather than waiting until after January of the year you are actually going to attend school

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