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2024 Is Going to Be a Doozy, But We’re All in This Together

When it comes to FAFSA season, remember: we are all in this together, and we will all get through this together.

Author: Bill DeBaun, Senior Director, National College Attainment Network

Maybe this article catches you before or during your winter break. Maybe, inexplicably, you’re reading it on New Year’s Eve. Or maybe it’s buried in your inbox as you return to the office and flip open your 2024 calendar. No matter the timing on when you’re getting it, the message is the same: this semester is going to be a doozy.

“FAFSA” is the phrase on the tip of everyone’s tongue, and for good reason. We always knew the Better FAFSA, which promises both an expansion of the federal Pell Grant and a more streamlined, quicker process, was coming this year, we just didn’t know about the associated headaches like a delay beyond an October 1 opening and the need for every school counselor, financial aid administrator, and college access professional to be re-trained in a relatively short period of time.

Here’s the latest: “FSA said that “the period leading up to and after December 31’ would be a FAFSA ‘soft launch,’ during which time users might encounter ‘planned pauses’ for maintenance and waiting rooms. These planned pauses – during which the FAFSA web site will be down – will occur without advance notice and will allow FSA to quickly address issues negatively affecting the applicant experience. During these pauses, users who are already online will be able to complete their work, but other users may not be able to begin or resume work on the 2024-25 form.”

Additional guidance from the National College Attainment Network is contained here.

The message I’ve been trying to send all fall to anyone associated with FAFSA completion is: we are all in this together, and we will all get through this together.

To that end, some other resources that might be useful on getting through the 2024-25 FAFSA include:

Although FAFSA is taking up a lot of brain space, it’s clearly not the only thing on our minds.

  • First, chronic absenteeism is plaguing lots of schools, especially high schools around the country. All of our in-school interventions, programming, and messaging is great, but if it doesn’t get to a student because they’re not in attendance, that’s a problem. The Education Trust has this handy post on ways to address chronic absenteeism.

Second, connecting students with financial aid is just one component of effective advising. A recent study of a survey of more than 14,000 New York City Department of Education seniors found that these college advising focus areas were the most relevant predictors of planning to attend college full-time in the fall:

  • receiving “some” to “a lot” of help in completing college applications;
  • receiving “a lot” of help in understanding the difference between for-profit and not-for-profit colleges (though in reverse direction); and
  • receiving “a lot” of help in writing personal statements and/or supplemental essays.

As we kick off the spring semester, remember that there are partners (both organizations and individuals) all across the country who are ready to help connect with students and families. Most doors are ready and waiting for your knock, and we’re willing to open and say hello.

Have questions, comments, or concerns or looking for resources not included here? Please drop me a line at