How You Can Go Back in Time and Get Money for College for Last Year

Michael J Fox walking across the street in a scene from the film "Back To The Future," 1985.
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By this point, college students have mostly taken their spring semester finals and moved on to summer internships, or maybe even graduated. But it’s not too late to get some more financial aid for the academic year that’s just wrapped up.

The window to file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid for the 2018-2019 school year (the one that just finished) runs from October 1, 2017, to June 30, 2019. Colleges and federal and state governments review that key form to help them make decisions on eligibility for grants as well as student loans.

Only 60.9% of graduating high school students filed the key form for the 2018-2019 school year, though. That means they could be missing out on up to $6,095 in Pell Grants.

Getting in your application before the June 30 deadline could help you get more aid after the fact.

“Simply file,” says Charlie Javice, founder and CEO of Frank, a company that helps students file the FAFSA in minutes. “Whether you think you’re eligible or not, the whole point in filing is to see how much you're eligible for.”

What you need to file

To file, you’ll need a login called an FSA ID for both the student and parents. You’ll also need financial data from your tax returns—in this case, about how much your family earned in 2016.

Edvisor estimates it takes a few hours to gather the appropriate documents and 55 minutes to fill out the application as a first-time filer. In subsequent years, it should take 45 minutes.

Prepare for next year

If you’re still in college, remember that applying early next time around can help you maximize the aid you qualify for, says Andrew Pentis, a certified student loan counselor and LendingTree writer. You’re less likely to miss deadlines for money you don’t have to pay back, including scholarships, state grants, and university aid.

“The basic principle to follow is, the sooner you file your FAFSA, the sooner you’ll have your ducks in a row to pay for college,” he says.

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