NEW! In Fall 2015 President Obama announced two major changes to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) process. First, starting with the 2017-2018 academic year, the FAFSA will be available October 1st for the upcoming school year. We encourage you to apply early to receive maximum aid consideration. Second, the tax information requested on the FAFSA will now be from two years prior. For the 2017-2018 academic year, you will be reporting 2015 tax information.
To receive maximum consideration, it is best to apply by our priority deadline: February 14, 2017. Please be sure to enter the UMBC school code: 002105. After February 14th, you are welcome to still apply for financial aid however institutional funds will be offered to students on a first come, first serve basis. If you would like to be considered for aid from the State of Maryland, ensure your FAFSA is completed no later than March 1, 2017.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is the FAFSA now available October 1st? How does this help me?
For many years, the FAFSA has been made available for students to complete on January 1 for the following school year; and the FAFSA has required income and tax information from the previous calendar year. Recent research and the Department of Education’s own data suggest that an implementing an earlier start date and using earlier income and tax information may benefit you in the following ways:
- Alignment: For some students, the traditional FAFSA application process does not aligned with college admissions application deadlines, which typically occur in the fall prior to the FAFSA launch. The new financial aid application process will be more aligned with the college admissions process for those students.
- Certainty: Many deadlines for state financial aid are as early as March. If the FAFSA asks for information about tax forms that are not due until April 15, you would have to estimate income or taxes paid in order to meet those state deadlines. And unfortunately, many students and parents mistakenly think they are not able to file a FAFSA until they file their tax return. This may cause students to miss certain federal, state, and/or institutional financial aid deadlines. As a result of the change to requiring earlier tax information, more students and families will be able to complete FAFSAs using the data imported electronically from the IRS rather than submitting applications with estimates that many need correcting later.
- Less Pressure: Students and parents will have more time to explore and understand financial aid options and apply aid before state deadlines.
Why should I apply before January 1?
We strongly recommend that you submit your FAFSA as early as possible to receive the best aid consideration. Moving the opening date for the next year’s FAFSA from January 1 to October 1 allows you to apply that much earlier for financial aid. Funds for some institutional financial aid programs are limited and applying by our priority deadline ensures that you are at least considered for those limited aid programs. If you apply after the deadline, we will award additional funds from institutional programs if available in the order that we receive eligible student FAFSAs.
In the past, the FAFSA has asked for my most recent tax year’s information on the form. The 2016 tax year will not be over in October. How can I fill out my FAFSA prior to January 1?
Starting with the 2017-2018 academic year, the FAFSA will request tax information from two years prior. This means that for the 2017-2018 academic year, you will use your 2015 tax information. This will also be the case even if you filed a 2016-2017 FAFSA with the 2015 tax information as well. In this case, you will be using the 2015 tax information twice for the first round of the new guidelines.
Why is the FAFSA now collecting tax information from two years prior? How does this help me?
Previously students were required to submit the most recent tax year’s information as soon as possible in order to receive maximum aid consideration from most schools. Student and parents who could not file their taxes immediately due to identity theft, tax extensions, delays in tax documents, or other issues could not file early. Applying later decreased the likelihood of them receiving aid from certain financial aid programs.
Now that you will be submitting tax information from two years prior, students and parents should have plenty of time to resolve any tax related issues and file the FAFSA using the correct information. In addition, the majority of students should have the opportunity to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to update their FAFSA. The tool automatically pulls all of your tax information from the IRS database onto the FAFSA thereby ensuring that the form is filled out correctly.
What if my tax information from 2015 no longer reflects my current financial situation? Do I still have to use it?
Not necessarily. If you experienced a change in your financial situation since completing your 2015 tax return, we recommend that you get in touch with your assigned Financial Aid Counselor to discuss your situation. You may be eligible to submit a Professional Judgment Appeal. The forms for the appeal are available on our website but we encourage you to contact your counselor first for guidance on which supporting documents to submit.
Once I fill out my FAFSA for the 2017-2018 academic year, when will I hear back from your office regarding my financial aid?
New students will receive a financial aid package for the 2017-2018 academic year 4-6 weeks after admission to UMBC. Current students will receive a financial aid package for the 2017-2018 academic year in early April. Once you have submitted your FAFSA, please monitor your UMBC email account for updates. We will send you an email if additional documents are needed as well as when your financial aid package is ready.