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Steps to Take While Waiting on 2024-25 College Award Letters

Deciding to attend college comes with anticipation, excitement, and unfortunately, stress — especially when it comes to paying for your higher education. For this year’s college-bound students and their families, that stress may be even greater due to a series of challenges and delays involving the FAFSA. The FAFSA is the gateway to financial aid in the form of federal student loans, grants, work study, and some scholarships.

Typically the FAFSA opens on October 1 for the next academic year, with financial aid award letters from colleges following in March or April. Those award letters outline the financial aid students are eligible for and are critical in helping families determine which school students will ultimately attend.

Unfortunately, this year’s FAFSA has been full of problems, from a late start in December 2023 to a series of errors that have meant even more delays in processing financial aid. Colleges have not been able to access accurate Institutional Student Information Reports (ISIR), meaning students and families have found themselves in limbo as they wait for their award letters. If you’re an incoming or returning college student waiting for financial aid information, here are a few steps to consider.

Watch for Communication

Some FAFSA errors can be corrected by the student, so keep an eye on your email for messages from the Department of Education and schools’ financial aid offices. The Department of Education has said it is reaching out to those affected letting them know they can now log in to their FAFSA to make any necessary corrections, which should only take a few minutes.

Additionally, schools may be communicating about deadlines or temporary updates to their admission and acceptance policies in light of the widespread FAFSA delays.

Check for Deadline Extensions

The first day of May is widely designated as “National College Decision Day.” Many colleges use this as a deadline for students to commit to attending their school. However, some schools are adjusting their timelines to account for this year’s FAFSA challenges. The National Association for College Admission Counseling has shared a database of enrollment deadlines and financial aid priority dates for 2024-2025. Be sure to check the dates for any colleges you’re considering and plan accordingly.

If the deadlines are closing in and you’re still waiting on information before making a final decision, contact the financial aid office to see if there is any flexibility or the possibility of an extension.

Consider Flexible Funding from Private Student Loans

While it may seem impossible to apply for a private student loan to fill potential funding gaps without knowing how much you’ll need to borrow, think again! Private education loans from our credit union partners allow you to begin the application process even if you don’t know how much you’ll need to cover costs, or even which school you’ll be attending. By starting the application process now, families can gain peace of mind knowing their funding will be ready when they return to complete the process.

While this year’s FAFSA has added stress to the college admissions process, don’t panic. Everyone is in the same rocky financial aid boat for the upcoming academic year, and financial aid offices are well aware of the challenges. Take a deep breath and take things one step at a time to make an educated decision about your future.