Q: I’m a CASA volunteer working with a high school student who is about to enter her senior year. She plans to attend college the fall after graduating. I want to make sure she receives the financial aid she is eligible for as a foster youth. I understand that completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the first step. Someone mentioned that starting this year, the FAFSA will be available at an earlier date. Is this true? If so, will the Chafee application be available earlier too?
A: Yes, this is true. Previously, the FAFSA could be completed starting January 1st for the following fall semester or quarter. Now, the California Student Aid Commission will accept the FAFSA, the California Dream Act application, and the Chafee application for the 2017-18 school year starting October 1, 2016.
The deadline for completing the FAFSA has not changed. For maximum financial aid, it is very important for the youth you work with to submit the FAFSA no later than March 2, 2017. Consideration for priority funding is given to those whose complete application is submitted on or before this day as funding is limited and applications are processed on a first-come, first-served basis. If a student misses this deadline, he or she should still submit a FAFSA because additional financial aid is available.
You should work with your CASA youth to submit the FAFSA (or the CA Dream Act application if she is undocumented) and the Chafee application as early as October 1st. You should also make sure she checks with her high school to see whether they will submit her Cal Grant GPA verification form directly to the California Student Commission, or whether she will need to submit it using the paper form (also a March 2nd deadline). By completing the FAFSA, your youth will automatically be applying for a federal Pell Grant.