The Office of Financial Aid was flooded with 40,000 financial aid applications last October after a new timeline for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, was implemented in 2016.
FAFSA applications opened again Oct. 1 for the second year, but UT’s Office of Financial Aid has not seen the same peak in FAFSA applications.
Trina Manor, associate director of the Office of Financial Aid, said in 2016, high school and transfer students appeared to take advantage of the earlier FAFSA timeline, applying for financial aid in the fall as they were applying for admission to UT. Prior to 2016, all students and applicants to UT had to wait to begin applying for financial aid in January.
“The interesting thing that we found was that it was mostly our incoming students that were applying,” Manor said. “It was a huge difference. Out of almost 40,000 applications in that first month, about 80 percent were from new students.”
Manor said the peak last October may have resulted from high schools heavily promoting early college applications. Manor, who has children in high school, said she has not seen the same push this year.
“It seemed like I was getting emails, robocalls and they were even doing contests between two schools for which school can have the most seniors apply for their FAFSA during the October timeframe,” Manor said. “I think it was because it was just so brand new and it was about getting the word out to parents.”
Business freshman Corrin Alanis, who already submitted the FAFSA for this year, said her parents completed the FAFSA last October as soon as they learned about the new timeline from schools.
“My school was really big on getting it done sooner rather than later,” Alanis said. “(But) I don’t think that too many students want to just get it done. Some students are very proactive and want to get it done, but others not so much.”
Manor said the financial aid office data showed current and returning UT students continue to apply in later months.
Chemistry sophomore Liz Parker said she was not aware of the earlier application timeline.
“I didn’t know it was open until now,” Parker said. “I applied in the spring, toward March because that was when it was open whenever I was first coming to college, so that’s what has been in my head.”
Parker said the new timeline could be helpful to students, but she will probably wait until spring to submit her application.
“I think it’s probably nice, but a lot of people are probably not thinking of the next school year, because it feels like this school year just got started.”
For Parker, allowing students to fill out FAFSA with tax forms from past income tax cycles has been more helpful than the change to the timeline. This change, which was also put in place in 2016, helps her since her family sometimes files tax forms after the Texas March 15 priority deadline for financial aid.
“It’s super convenient,” Parker said. “Sometimes (my dad) is a little bit late, but he eventually does it, so it’s easier for us to go back and do the year before.”