By Emma Hughes and David Waterman
As of the 2016-2017 school year, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, is available three months earlier. As a result, many college application deadlines were pushed up, some falling as early as October. The average deadline for the Class of 2016 was December. This advanced deadline places extra pressure on students and is a negative change to the complex college application process.
Seniors Amy Powell and Jared Taylor had deadlines that fell between Nov. 1 and Dec. 1. Powell likes the earlier deadlines because the college decisions are made available earlier, but she prefers a later deadline so that she has more time to decide where to apply and to fill out the applications. “I did not manage my deadlines very well, especially the [Nov.] 1 ones because a lot of schools required extra essays that I didn’t have a lot of time to write,” Powell said.
While deadlines may allow for preparation early in the year, students are finding themselves completing them “the day before,” Taylor said. Powell though that it was better for parents having FAFSA available earlier, but not for the students.
Students, overall, are torn over this change “I liked the change in FAFSA availability time because it allowed me to just get it out of the way early,” Taylor said. “Because the FASFA was available in October, that made me more stressed for the November deadlines, and I had a lot going on there. My teachers didn’t lighten up the work load at all, and I had to drop some school applications because I just didn’t have time to fill them out,” Powell said. Entire applications for schools couldn’t be completed because of time, so this change in FAFSA has hurt students significantly.
Rick Riede and Maia Forman, University of Cincinnati freshmen and McNicholas graduates of 2016, had average deadlines in December for their senior year last year. “I was very stressed out about my deadlines even though they were later because I waited to do everything until last minute. I finally managed them by sitting down and cranking through them in one day,” Riede said. He does not think that he could have managed an earlier deadline if the FASFA was made available earlier last year. “I feel like the change is a negative one because there is no reason to have your college picked out an entire year before you attend it,” Riede said. His advice to high school seniors is to buckle down and do your applications, not put them off until the last minute like he did.
For some, this change shows promise and eases pressure off students. “When we found out our FAFSA results in January, I believe, the pressure to decide on a school already felt pretty strong. Knowing earlier might have saved some stress,” Forman said. The pressure of deadlines helped Forman. “I used my stress as a sort of driving force,” she said.
Whether or not the changes in FAFSA availability will work out to be positive or negative are yet to be seen. Students are hopeful that knowing their financial information earlier will ease the process of choosing a college, but it also causes much more stress earlier on.