FAFSA Website Changes – the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

If you want to get money for college, then you’ll need to know how to fill out the FAFSA correctly!

This week, the U.S. Dept. of Education launched a completely NEW FAFSA website! Below I describe my take on some of the best, and the worst, changes that the site brings for filing the FAFSA.

First of all, I’d like to congratulate FAFSA for finally joining the new millennium. You made it! A fresh, new website is long overdue after having paper (!) forms as the norm for so long; even when an improved website was launched back in 2007 (and few changes since then), it felt like we were still stuck in a program from c. 1998.

I have to admit, when I first saw the new site I had to do a double-take to ensure I was in the right place. I was shocked! The color scheme and logos now closely resemble the other FSA (Federal Student Aid) sites and there are extra resources listed for students on the homepage.

Some negative changes I have noticed (besides that when I first visited the site, I didn’t know where I was):

  • The login process has one extra step
  • There are a couple of major issues with the form itself that I hope for all our sakes are fixed immediately: The Student Demographics section questions are not listed! Also, the IRS tool is currently not working (doesn’t navigate correctly). The site should really have been tested before launching it for public use!
  • The required vs. optional questions are not clearly marked (did you know you are not required to enter your driver’s license number?)
  • Parent 1 vs. Parent 2 is not clearly marked or defined. Often, families are unsure who the primary and secondary parents are, especially when they have one-parent, stepparent, or legal-guardian households

Positive Changes:

  • You choose when to open and close pop-up bars with further information
  • Tool bar options are now listed on a top banner (instead of trying to navigate random links at the bottom of a page, or only on the homepage)
  • When you complete each section, it is clearly marked with a green check-mark (task-oriented doers rejoice!)
  • The Virtual Keyboard: a new option for added security

Overall (once some of the bugs are worked out), there are certainly more pros than cons, and I am welcoming the updates with open arms.

Until Next Time,

Hope Santos, PES Financial Aid Director

P.S. If you’re struggling to figure out the financial aid process and want to have someone help you in the same way a CPA helps you do your taxes, then call us and see how we can make the financial aid process simple, easy, and affordable for your family.

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