Image from FAFSA

Local students and families receiving college acceptance letters are awaiting financial aid information due to federal delays.




FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is a federal form that determines how much financial aid a student can receive by asking families about their financial information. This year, FAFSA was updated, and these updates are proving to be very difficult for students, families, and colleges across the nation. In the 2021-2022 application cycle, 17.5 million students applied for FAFSA. As of mid-March, 50 Harwood seniors had submitted a FAFSA application — 48% of the class. 

FAFSA usually opens during October. It’s meant to be turned in alongside college applications, which could be in November or January. When students receive their decisions later that year, the decision comes with a financial aid letter that spells out how much financial aid that college can give. This year, FAFSA had a delayed opening. After several delays, it finally opened on December 31, 2023.

Not only was it late, but the system was flawed. The form would glitch, it would lock students out, and sometimes it would only allow a certain amount of people to fill out the form at once. After students submitted their form, it was locked --students couldn’t edit any parts of their form, including the colleges they wanted to send it to.

FAFSA was only sent out to colleges in early April, so now students are getting acceptance letters without aid letters. May 1 is the typical deadline for “decision day,” when students finally commit to one college, but considering financial aid is a crucial part of committing to a college. Additionally, some colleges require FAFSA results for merit aid.

“I have to decide where I’m going by May 1, but my financial aid is all over the place,” said Senior A. 

Some colleges are pushing back their May 1 deadline to allow students to receive their financial aid results, while some, like UVM, are creating their own financial aid packages. “It’s compounded stress,” said school counselor Randy Sweeney. “The financial aid delays are adding more stress to an already stressful process.”