The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) can be filed any time after October 1st of the student’s senior year. You should submit your FAFSA as early as possible since many schools distribute certain types of financial aid on a first come, first served basis.
Since the FAFSA requires information from both the student’s and the parent’s income tax forms, it makes sense to wait until you’ve completed your taxes before you file the FAFSA. However, if for some reason there will be a delay in filing the taxes, you can use an estimate and go ahead and complete the FAFSA. You can make any adjustments as needed once you file your taxes.
It is likely that you will submit the FAFSA before you know which schools have accepted your application. Many schools have a priority deadline for financial aid that occurs before the official notification date of notifying applicants of acceptance status.
Another date to know is the deadline for your state’s financial aid program. Most states (not all) use the FAFSA for students to qualify for state financial aid. Therefore, you will need to make sure you file in time to meet the state’s deadline as well.
If you applying to a college that uses the College Scholarship Service (CSS Profile) by the College Board, you can submit your application as early as October 1 of your senior year. Again, it is in your best interest to apply as early as possible.
Even if you have completed the CSS Profile, you still need to submit the FAFSA if you want to receive any federal aid including unsubsidized student loans.