We’re here to tell you: don’t panic. If you haven’t heard back from all of the colleges on your student’s list about financial aid packages, that is OK. This year, the updated FAFSA form was available later than usual because the government has changed their system for assessing families’ financial situations. As a result, colleges have a smaller window of time to determine prospective students’ financial aid packages before the decision date of May 1st (for most schools), although some schools are extending their deadlines in response to the changes.

If you and your student have sent in all the necessary information for each application and you still haven’t received any communication from the schools, there’s no need to worry. At SFC we’ve made sure that you and your family are prepared.

As frustrating as it may be, the only thing you have left to do now is simply wait until your student has heard back from every school on their list, including the respective financial aid package offers from each institution. Once you have all of the offers on the table, it’s much easier to compare financial aid packages—including institutional grants, merit scholarship, and government need-based aid and/or loans, among other sources—and assess which school is the best choice for your student to attend.

Bottom line: if you have filled out the most recent FAFSA form, you will receive information about financial aid from the colleges and universities to which your student applied, and you will receive this information before the final decision date. Nobody likes being told they have to wait, but you can be secure in the knowledge that you are on top of things and schools are doing everything in their power to send a response as quickly as possible.

It is also possible that some schools will push back their response deadline dates to accommodate the new timeline, so it’s important that you and your student remain vigilant in tracking any and all communications from the schools on their list. Make sure your student maintains a habit of regularly checking their email as well as their online application portal(s).


Some questions you might still have…

What’s different about the FAFSA this year?

As we discussed in a previous newsletter about financial aid basics, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid underwent a change in the fall of 2023 with the implementation of the FAFSA Simplification Act. Several elements of the form were overhauled, including its length and complexity, with the goal of increasing eligibility for more students. The new FAFSA uses a different way of indexing a family’s finances with a formula that takes into account each student individually rather than as a household. A family’s ability to contribute to their student’s cost of college is now referred to as the Student Aid Index (SAI) rather than the Estimated Contribution (EFC). This EFC is not to be confused with the EFC used in the CSS profile, which is a separate financial aid form required by some colleges.The CSS is not affected by the FAFSA Simplification Act.

Are these changes permanent?

Yes, the FAFSA Simplification Act has been years in the making with the help of lawmakers and higher education experts and advocacy groups. It is intended to fully replace the previous version of the form.

Will I still have to fill out the FAFSA every year?

Yes, families must fill out the form every year that their student(s) is/are in college in order to determine their eligibility for federal and institutional financial aid. Any significant changes in the family’s financial situation should be reported so the file remains as accurate as possible.

Will it be delayed again next year?

It may take some time for every institution in the country to fully adapt to the new system, but the process should be less drawn out by next year, and will likely continue to become more smoothly integrated into the regular application process over time.