2024-2025 FAFSA® Overview for Parents/Guardians

Whether you’re a first-timer or a seasoned pro, here’s what you need to know before filling out the Fall 2024 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) with your college-bound student. 


The FAFSA application for the 2024-2025 school year is now open. You will file the FAFSA every year your student is in college. For the years that follow the 2024-2025 application season, the open date will be October 1. The earlier you file, the better, but be sure you complete the 2024-2025 FAFSA by the deadline of June 30, 2025. 

Important Terms 

Contributor(s): People asked to provide information on a student’s FAFSA form. FAFSA limits contributors to the student themselves, the student’s spouse (if applicable), the biological or adopted parent, or the parent’s spouse (stepparent). While other people may have played a significant role in raising or financially supporting the student, for FAFSA purposes, these are the only people considered contributors.

Student Aid Index (SAI): The number colleges use to determine how much financial aid a student can receive. The SAI replaced the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). 

Cost of Attendance (COA): Each school’s estimated total for tuition, fees, room, board, books/supplies, transportation, and personal expenses.

Need: Cost of attendance (COA) – Student Aid Index (SAI) – Other Financial Assistance = Need

Unusual Circumstances: When a student cannot contact a parent or where contact with a parent poses a risk to the student. 

Provisional Independent Student: Designation given to students who indicate an unusual circumstance. 

FUTURE Act & FAFSA Simplification Act: Pieces of legislation that have impacted the user experience and qualifications for federal student aid. 

Independent Student: Students who are not required to have parents contribute to their FAFSA. 

What You Can Expect

The 2024-2025 FAFSA introduced a new logic system to streamline the process. When a contributor begins the FAFSA form, their answers determine which additional contributors, if any, will be required to provide information. Here’s a suggested step-by-step breakdown:

  1. The student and all expected contributors should create an FSA ID. This unique identifier is used throughout the FAFSA process.
  2. The student initiates the FAFSA form, accurately answering all the question prompts. Their answers determine who needs to be a contributor. The FAFSA identifies the contributors, and the student enters the email addresses of each contributor.
  3. Each identified contributor receives an email explaining their role in the FAFSA process.
  4. Contributors open the email from FAFSA and sign in or log in to StudentAid.gov using their own FSA ID.
  5. Once logged in, contributors can review the provided information and complete their respective sections of the FAFSA form.

All contributors must provide their name, date of birth, social security number, email address, and personal financial information, regardless of their future financial contribution toward the student’s education.


Here are the 2024-2025 FAFSA form changes:

  1. The FAFSA opened December 2023 for the 2024-2025 school year. It will open on October 1st in the following years.
  2. The FAFSA requires contributors to directly exchange data with the IRS.
  3. The FAFSA form has 36 questions (used to be 108), making filing quicker and easier.
  4. The Student Aid Index (SAI) replaced the Expected Family Contribution (EFC), emphasizing that aid qualification is based on the student’s eligibility, not the family’s expected payment.
  5. Child support, family farms, and small businesses are now assets when determining aid eligibility.
  6. The number of family members attending college is no longer a factor in determining aid eligibility.
  7. There is no longer a selective service requirement for FAFSA applicants.
  8. Negative consequences associated with drug convictions are no longer a factor in FAFSA eligibility.
  9. Colleges have more flexibility in adjusting aid packages based on professional judgment.
  10. Unaccompanied or homeless youth have more options for providing documentation when applying for financial aid.
  11. Applicants who cannot provide parent information due to unusual circumstances now have more flexibility in the FAFSA submission.
  12. FAFSA information is now available in the 11 most common languages in the United States, ensuring accessibility for a wider range of students.
  13. Fewer students will be selected for FAFSA form verification, making the process simpler for many.

Keep in Mind

If a contributor refuses to provide their information, it will result in an incomplete FAFSA form, and the student will become ineligible for federal student aid. 

Advocating For Your Student

Once your student receives admission and their financial aid letter, there are a few situations where they may need to call the financial aid office. 

Here are a few examples:

  1. The tax year doesn’t reflect your current situation. Consider visiting the financial aid office if the tax year pulled into your FAFSA doesn’t accurately show your current financial situation. For example, if your family experienced a loss of income or employment.
  2. You have multiple students in college. If you come from a family with more than one student in college, the aid office at your student’s destination college may be able to adjust your student’s funding offer.
  3. You have elementary or secondary school expenses. Did your family have any expenses related to elementary or secondary school tuition? It’s worth mentioning and could impact your student’s financial aid offer.
  4. You have unusual medical or dental expenses. If your family had any unusual medical or dental expenses not covered by insurance, they might consider that when determining your student’s aid package.
  5. Your student is a provisional independent student. If FAFSA determines your student is a provisional independent student, they can guide you through the process and what documentation is necessary.

Special Circumstances

The identified contributor doesn’t have a social security number. Even if a contributor doesn’t have a social security number, they can still get an FSA ID to fill out their portion of the FAFSA form. 

The identified contributor is imprisoned. This is considered an unusual circumstance, and students are granted provisional independent status.

The identified contributor is unreachable. This is considered an unusual circumstance, and students are granted provisional independent status.

The identified contributor is a danger to the student. This is considered an unusual circumstance, and students are granted provisional independent status. The following are examples provided by StudentAid.gov of unusual circumstances: human trafficking, legally granted refugee or asylum status, parental abandonment or estrangement, and student or parental incarceration. 

The identified contributor didn’t file taxes. The contributor must consent to link to the IRS database even if no taxes were filed. 

Independent Students: The following identifications do not require parents to be contributors when filing FAFSA: 

  1. Anyone born before Jan 1, 2001
  2. Anyone married (and not separated) 
  3. Graduate or professional students 
  4. Active duty or military veteran 
  5. Orphan 
  6. Ward of the court 
  7. Anyone with legal dependents other than a spouse 
  8. Emancipated minor 
  9. Anyone unaccompanied and homeless or self-supporting and at risk of being homeless 

Additional Resources

How to Set Up an Email Address 

FAFSA Deadlines

Financial Aid Toolkit

FSA Knowledge Center

FSA Estimator

FSA Loan Simulator

FSA LinkedIn

FSA Facebook

FSA Instagram

FSA Twitter

FSA YouTube