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The Better FAFSA Hasn’t Opened, But You Can Already Get Started

While it is possible to create an FSA ID and fill out the FAFSA in the same day, it is not recommended (more on that later). That’s why NCAN is urging its members to host FSA ID creation events before the new form opens.

Author: Matthew Odom, Communications Manager, National College Attainment Network (NCAN)

With the 2024-25 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), or “Better FAFSA,” delayed until December 2023, the completion events typically scheduled for the fall and early winter will need to be pushed back as well. College access professionals should start planning now and inform the students (and by extension, families) they serve of this change.

The National College Attainment Network (NCAN) recommends that organizations and individuals assisting in FAFSA completion plan two types of events: FSA ID creation events and FAFSA completion workshops. As the Better FAFSA opening date approaches, NCAN will delve more into the “nitty-gritties” of FAFSA completion workshops, but they should be scheduled for January 2024 after the 2024-25 FAFSA opens.

However, while you’re waiting for the new form to open, you can host FSA ID creation events. Since everyone inputting information into the new FAFSA (called “contributors”) will need to have an FSA ID to login-in and complete their section, this is an ideal activity to help contributors get ready to fill out the form.

While it is possible to create an FSA ID and fill out the FAFSA in the same day, it is not recommended (more on that later). That’s why NCAN is urging our members to host FSA ID creation events before the new form opens.

Furthermore, since some states and institutions have yet to push back their financial aid deadlines, students will need all the time they can get to complete the FAFSA. FSA ID creation is a “low-hanging fruit” of sorts that can be done prior to the opening date.

What to Know About the New FSA ID Process

An updated FSA ID process will be launched sometime before the Better FAFSA opens. Contributors attempting to create a new FSA ID will need to have a verified email address. Therefore, staff at your workshop may need to be prepared to help students or family members with setting up an email account before they attempt to create an FSA ID. Gmail is a free, intuitive platform that anyone can use.

For contributors with existing FSA IDs that do not have an email address, they will need to add one to their account and have it verified in the process. You and your staff should be aware of this as well.

There will be a new process for contributors without Social Security Numbers that will be launched this fall before the Better FAFSA opens. NCAN will share details of that process with our members once we learn more from the Office of Federal Student Aid.

The identity of contributors will need to be verified prior to an individual completing the FAFSA. If this is not done, they will have the option to manually input information that would otherwise be automatically uploaded, but this is a tedious process that leaves room for mistakes. For this reason, while it is possible to create an FSA ID and fill out the FAFSA on the same day, NCAN does not recommend it given FSA has said it will take three to seven days for a documented student’s FSA ID to be verified.

Lastly, while FSA IDs are normally first used to complete a FAFSA, they have other uses down the road for students, including logging into their studentaid.gov account, loan counseling and repayment, and more. Creating an FSA ID is the first step in many students’ postsecondary education journey.

NCAN recommends you host multiple FSA ID completion events to give your students and families options. These events can also be used to spread the word about the delay in the Better FAFSA and associated changes (you can find out more about that here). Although the delay in opening date throws a wrench in a lot NCAN members’ plans, let’s do everything we can to get students and their families ready for when the FAFSA opens.