Is the FAFSA® *really* “first come, first serve”?


When FAFSA® season comes around, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.

It’s already hard to keep track of all the deadlines; the last thing you want to be confused about is when exactly to apply. Especially in college, when you’ve already got a million different deadlines happening at once.

You may have heard that the FAFSA® (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) “opens” on October 1; this is true. You may have also heard that financial aid is first-come, first-serve. This is also true, but not everybody believes it. It’s something many schools don’t want to make well known.

What exactly does “first-come, first-serve” mean when it pertains to your FAFSA®?

If you are entitled to financial aid, you will receive it. But the type of financial aid is what makes the difference.

Colleges and universities only have so many scholarships (free money!) to give out. Loan money will always be available, but grants (more free money!) are always the first to go. And of course, that’s the money students most want to get.

If you file FAFSA® early, you’ll have a better chance of being awarded federal student grant money that you don’t have to pay back, based simply on the amount of funds your college was given by the federal government.

Yup — believe it or not, college funds are limited and that’s why financial aid deadlines exist for every school.

“Speed and accuracy are essential when preparing a FAFSA®,” says Brad Baker, president of Student Aid Financial Services. “The aid process is competitive and it pays to submit early.” 

So, long story short, if you’re filing early for financial aid, you’re more likely to get a grant. If you wait until the end, you’re most likely going to end up with a loan offer.

That’s why it’s so important for students who don’t want to rely only on student loans to file their FAFSA® as early as possible. At Frank, we suggest filing as soon as the application opens on October 1st.

Filing early for financial aid could be the best college funding move you make.

All schools and some states have its own deadlines on top of the FAFSA®, too. You truly have nothing to lose and everything to gain by filing as soon as possible.

It doesn’t get any easier than filing with FRANK — so you know where to be, ASAP.