The Catholic University of America

Changes Impacting the 2017–18 FAFSA

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and how is it changing?

The FAFSA is the application that students must complete to apply for federal student aid, which can be used to attend an eligible college or career school.  Federal student aid includes Federal Pell Grants, federal student loans, and work-study opportunities. In addition to determining eligibility for federal student aid, many states, private organizations, colleges, and career schools rely on information from the FAFSA to determine eligibility for nonfederal sources of aid.

Two major changes to the FAFSA will take effect for the 2017–18 school year. (The 2017–18 school year runs from July 1, 2017, through June 30, 2018.):

1.    The FAFSA will be available earlier (October 1).
2.    The FAFSA will collect income information from an earlier tax year. Beginning with the 2017–18 FAFSA, students will report income information from two years prior, which in this case is 2015 income information—two tax years before the beginning of the school year.

How will an earlier FAFSA and the change to the income year benefit students? Benefits include the following:

•    Alignment. The financial aid application process will be more aligned with the college application process.
•    Certainty. Students (and their parents, if applicable) will not need to estimate income information.
•    Less pressure. There will be more time for students to explore and understand financial aid options and apply for aid before state and school deadlines.

Do families need to complete their taxes before they fill out the FAFSA?

No.  If students (and their parents, if applicable) are required to file taxes, they do not have to complete their taxes before they fill out the FAFSA.

Beginning with the 2017–18 FAFSA, students will report income information from two years prior, which in this case is 2015 income information. Considering that the 2015 tax filing deadline is April 15, 2016, and the 2017–18 FAFSA will become available on Oct. 1, 2016, applicants are very likely to have completed their taxes before October 1, and the tax information would be available to be reported on the FAFSA. 

Can a student still be selected for verification if he or she is using 2015 income information on his or her 2017–18 FAFSA?

Yes. A student can be selected for verification by either the U.S. Department of Education or by the student’s school. Verification is a process by which a student is required to submit documentation that the data reported on the student’s FAFSA is accurate. The financial aid administrator at a student’s college may make corrections or updates to the student’s FAFSA based on the documentation provided as part of the verification process. 

Since the 2017–18 FAFSA asks for the same tax and income information as the 2016–17 FAFSA, will my 2016–17 FAFSA information automatically be carried over into my 2017–18 renewal FAFSA?

No; too much could have changed since you filed your last FAFSA, and there’s no way to predict what might be different, so you’ll need to enter the information again. However, keep in mind that many people are eligible to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to automatically import their tax information into the FAFSA, making the process of reporting tax information quick and easy.

Do students still have to complete the FAFSA every year?

Yes. Because eligibility for federal student aid does not carry over from one school year to the next, students will need to fill out the FAFSA for each school year in which they plan to be a student. Eligibility for financial aid can differ from year to year for various reasons, including a student’s or family’s financial situation and the number of family members enrolled in college. 

How does information transfer from the IRS to the FAFSA?

The IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) allows applicants (and their parents, if applicable) to access the IRS tax return information needed to complete the FAFSA, and transfer the required information directly into the FAFSA from the IRS. The FAFSA includes a link to the IRS if an applicant is eligible to use the IRS DRT. 

Where can I get more information about—and help with—the FAFSA?

Visit; and remember, as you fill out your FAFSA at, you can refer to help text for every question and (during certain times of day) chat online with a customer service representative.