NEW INFO: the 2017-18 FAFSA

You’re used to completing the FAFSA in January, or in April after submitting your tax return.  That’s no longer the case; starting with 2017-18, the FAFSA opens on October 1 and is based on your tax return from two years ago. 

What’s the hurry?

  • Your financial aid is based on your FAFSA – the Pell Grant and need-based scholarships and loans.
  • Most financial aid is first-come, first-served.  You want to be at the head of the line!
  • It’s easy, especially if you’ve done it before – it shouldn’t take longer than 20 minutes.
  • You can use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) to directly upload the information from your 2015 tax return to your FAFSA.

What if I didn’t file a federal tax return in 2015?

  • Ÿ  If you answer “I’m not going to file.” to Question 32, you are skipped ahead to question 39.
  • Ÿ  Question 39 – Answer with the amount you remember earning in 2015; if you earned over $10,300 as a single, independent student, you would have had to file a federal tax return.
  • Ÿ  Question 40 – Answer with information for your spouse, if you were married in 2015.
  • Ÿ  Questions 41-43 – These must be answered with information that is true for the day on which you complete the FAFSA.

 I filed a federal tax return in 2015 – can I use the IRS DRT?

You can use the DRT UNLESS you filed your 2015 tax return:

  • Married Filing Separately
  • Married, Head of Household, or
  • You filed an amended tax return
  • You filed a foreign tax return

How do I use the IRS DRT?

  • Go to and login using your FSA ID.  You should have this from last year – if you do not have one, you can create it from the FAFSA login page.
  • Start your 2017-18 application, which should be populated with some of the answers from last year.
  • When you get to the financial information tab, you will be asked questions to determine whether you are eligible to use the IRS DRT.  If you are eligible, enter your FSA ID and password and click LINK TO IRS.
  • From there, complete the requested information and click submit.  Review your tax return, check “Transfer my information into the FAFSA,” and hit TRANSFER NOW.
  • Your information will be transferred and you will be returned to your FAFSA.

 What if my income has changed significantly since 2015?

Once you receive your Student Aid Report (SAR), you can talk to your financial aid office and they can assess your situation and make adjustments.  The SAR will be available on your FAFSA account within one week of completing the application.

How do I make sure I get independent status as a foster youth?

Questions 46-58 ask about your status.  You need only one YES answer to qualify as independent.  Generally, this is question 53, “At any time since you turned age 13, were both your parents deceased, were you in foster care or were you a dependent or ward of the court?”

NOTE – Ask your caseworker or agency to provide you with a Foster Care letter, which should state the dates and jurisdiction of your time in care and may also list the programs (ETV, independent living services etc.) for which you are eligible. 

What happens if my FAFSA is selected for verification?

Verification is the process used to confirm that the data reported on your FAFSA is correct.  About one-third of all FAFSAs are selected for verification by the Department of Education, based on tax and personal information.  Schools may select additional FAFSAs for verification.  If your FAFSA is selected, you will need to provide your financial aid office with more information.

How do I know my FAFSA has been selected for verification?

  • There is an asterisk (*) next to the Estimated Family Contribution (EFC) on your Student Aid Report (SAR).
  • Your school’s financial aid office will reach out to you through your online student account to request further information.  You should check your student email account regularly for messages from your school.

What do I do next?

  • Visit your financial aid office right away – the sooner you’re verified, the sooner your financial aid package can be finalized.
  • If you used the IRS DRT and did not change any of the information, you will not have to provide your physical tax return.
  • If you are asked to provide proof that you were in foster care, you can use a letter from your caseworker or agency.

What are the deadlines?

  • The federal deadline (for the 2017-18 Pell etc.) is June 30, 2018. (This is not a typo.)
  • The North Carolina deadline is “as soon as possible after October 1, 2016.”  North Carolina state grants are made on a first-come, first-served basis until the funds are depleted.