A photo of a black notebook sitting on a table. The front of the notebooks says \"FAFSA FREE APPLICATION FOR FEDERAL STUDENT AID\" in yellow letters
The revamped FAFSA process is pushing back financial aid offers months later than usual this year. (Getty Images)

I submitted my FAFSA. Now what?

Norm Bedford, associate vice president for student financial services at VCU, explains the timeline for awarding financial aid packages and offers advice to students and families navigating the longer-than-expected wait.

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Across the U.S., students and families are awaiting their financial aid offers from their university of choice. Why the wait?

It stems from the Department of Education's overhaul of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The revamped form, known as the FAFSA, opened in late December 2023, months later than usual. That delay began the domino effect, pushing back processing timelines for the Department of Education, and ultimately, the time for when students and families can expect to receive their award packages.

To help students and families understand the latest financial aid timeline, what to expect and steps to take, VCU News spoke with Norm Bedford, associate vice president for student financial services at VCU.

When will 2024-2025 FAFSA be sent to VCU?

The Department of Education began to release processed FAFSAs to schools mid-March. According to the Department of Education, it will take several weeks to process the nationwide backlog of completed FAFSAs and send them to schools. Students will receive an email from the Department of Education once their FAFSA has been processed and sent to the schools they listed on their FAFSA.

Some students and families will need to make a correction to their 2024-2025 FAFSA. As of April 1, the Department of Education does not allow that function. When do you expect students and families will be allowed to make a correction to their FAFSA?

According to the Department of Education, the ability to make a correction to your FAFSA should be available by mid-April 2024. We encourage students whose FAFSA has already been processed to frequently check if the FAFSA correction feature is available.

If students and families need to make a correction to their 2024-2025 FAFSA, should they make the correction before VCU begins financial aid packaging?

Yes. To receive the most accurate financial aid package, your FAFSA should be updated with correct information. According to the Department of Education, the ability to make a correction to your FAFSA should be available by mid-April 2024. We encourage students to make corrections to their FAFSA as quickly as possible and before financial aid packaging is expected to occur.

With that in mind, when is VCU expecting to begin financial aid packaging for students?

In order to begin financial aid packaging for students, VCU must be able to validate if we have received all FAFSA applications that our students completed from the Department of Education. As of April 1, the Department of Education has not provided schools with the ability to determine if all completed FAFSAs from our students have been received.

The following estimated time frames to begin financial aid packaging may change based upon guidance from the Department of Education that could further delay financial aid awarding:

  • Newly admitted students by the end of April 2024.
  • Currently enrolled students by the end of June 2024, similar to last year.

How do the FAFSA delays impact VCU’s May 1, 2024, admissions deadline?

Students who were impacted by the FAFSA delay and receive their financial aid award after May 1: VCU will continue to accept enrollment deposits after May 1.

Students interested living within an on-campus VCU residence hall who submitted a FAFSA or received a merit-based scholarship from VCU may waive the enrollment deposit on their offer of admission response form.

For students who filled out a paper FAFSA form and mailed it to the address on the application, when will they receive a confirmation email from the federal processor?

According to the Department of Education, students who apply using the paper FAFSA form do not receive a confirmation email. When their form is received in the mail by the federal processor, the receipt date is recorded. Starting in March, students may check the status of their application by logging in to StudentAid.gov.

What happens if a student filed a paper FAFSA form first, but then filled out an online FAFSA form before the paper form was processed? Will the receipt date of the paper form still stand as the application date?

According to the Department of Education, because the online form will be processed before the paper form, the date that the online version was submitted will be the recorded submission date of your FAFSA form (even if the student submitted a paper form at an earlier date). If a student submits both an online and paper version of their application, the paper form will be “rejected,” and the student will receive a mailed notice that a FAFSA form has already been filed.

What is the best way for students and families to contact the VCU Student Financial Management Center?

The 24-7 call center is available at 804-828-1550. Virtual drops-ins are available Monday through Friday 9 to 11 a.m. and 2 to 4 p.m.