When should you file your FAFSA?

First, let’s start by talking about the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or the FAFSA. What is it? What does it do? The FAFSA is what qualifies you for both federal and state aid. It will generate a number called your Estimated Family Contribution, or your EFC, which is the amount of money you are expected to contribute to the price of your college education for that academic year.

You must file the FAFSA every year that you would like to receive financial aid. Last year some changes were made to the FAFSA which have been referred to as “prior-prior.”

So what does prior-prior mean? All it means is that you will be able to file your FAFSA starting on October 1, 2017. In previous years the FAFSA opened on January 1, but now, in order to better align with the college application process, you will be able to file your FAFSA earlier. It’s called prior-prior because you will be able to file your 2018 FAFSA using your 2016 (the prior-prior year) tax information.

If there have been any changes to you or your family’s financial situation (loss of job, change in income, medical bills, etc.) between now and 2016 you will be able to file a special circumstances form with our Office of Student Financial Aid (OSFA) in order to alert them to these changes. From there they will do their best to adjust your financial aid package accordingly.

As far as the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is concerned, our priority deadline is March 15, 2018. We encourage all students to file their FAFSA as soon as possible and no later than our priority deadline as there are more funds available if you file prior to March 15.

OSFA will begin to send out financial aid packages around mid-February. But if you would like to have a better idea of what your estimated cost of attendance will be feel free to check out our Financial Aid Award Estimator.

If you have any questions regarding prior-prior or the FAFSA don’t be confused (like this cat)!

Please feel free to either contact OSFA or leave a comment below and I will do my best to answer your question(s)!



Transfer Recruitment Coordinator, Undergraduate Admissions
I help transfer students navigate our application and admission process. I have a background not only in admissions but also in financial aid. I'm originally from southeastern Michigan.


  • As an International Student ,do we need to fill FAFSA Application. As I understand FAFSA is for only for US citizens.

  • Hi Yogesh,
    You are correct! The FAFSA should only be filed by U.S. citizens and therefore international students are not eligible to file the FAFSA.