2024-25 FAFSA is Now Available: Here’s What You Should Know

As of Dec. 31, the much-anticipated new 2024-25 FAFSA is now available online for students and families to complete. Although the form has been released, it is important to note that that the U.S. Department of Education shared that the release is a “soft launch” and that the form may be unavailable periodically as they work through any potential issues.

Group of happy teen high school students studying outdoors, preparing for lectures together, free space

So, what does this mean for students and families? This means that there may be glitches or interruptions during the soft launch period that families should consider. The U.S. Department of Education has indicated that the soft launch will allow the department to monitor site performance, conduct planned pauses for maintenance, and make updates to improve the user experience. In addition, they have advised that Federal Student Aid (FSA) will not transmit results to schools until later in January.

As a reminder, there are things you can do now to prepare for the updated FAFSA if you would prefer to wait to file until after the soft launch. You can review our November blog post for more details. Here are a few other helpful things to keep in mind should you choose to fill out the FAFSA during the soft launch period:

  • If a student completes their form during the soft launch, information will be stored for processing and they do not need to return to resubmit their application once the soft launch concludes.
  • FSA will initiate planned pauses for site maintenance. During these pauses, students who are already online will be able to complete their work, but other users may not be able to begin or resume work on their 2024-25 FAFSA form. If you are unable to fill out the form, you should come back later and try again.Students with modern devices studying online indoors
  • Students may experience a waiting room feature to help control website volumes for those trying to fill out the form.
  • If a contributor is unable to access the site during maintenance, they should try again later and fill out their section as soon as the site becomes available again.
  • Once your 2024-25 FAFSA form is completed and submitted, students will receive a confirmation email that includes their submission date, their Student Aid Index, and their estimated Federal Pell Grant eligibility. Students will not receive an official FAFSA submission summary until their FAFSA is processed, beginning in late January.

Deadline Reminders

In Missouri, the deadline to file the FAFSA to be eligible for the Missouri Access Grant Program is April 1. Applications received before that date will receive an Access Missouri award, although the final award amount will not be determined until later in the year.

It is also important to note that some colleges and universities may have their own FAFSA deadlines for the financial aid they offer. Please check with each school you are interested in to make sure you are meeting important deadlines.

4 Ways to Prepare for the 2024-25 FAFSA

With the announcement that the 2024-25 FAFSA is delayed until December, many students and families are left wondering if there is anything they can do now to help prepare. The answer to this is yes! In fact, there are many steps you can take to help you prepare to file your FAFSA once it is released. Taking a little time to prepare now will help make sure you are able to file your FAFSA on time and be considered for all of the financial aid opportunities available. 

The following information and resources are available to help you prepare in the next few weeks.

1. Determine Your Classification

Student sitting on floor using laptopDepending on your circumstances, you are classified as an independent or dependent student. It is important to know what type of student you are before you file your FAFSA. If you are an independent student, you will only need to provide personal information for yourself and, if married, your spouse. If you are considered a dependent student, you will need to provide information for yourself and your legal parent(s). 

If you are not sure which type of student you are, review this helpful checklist

2. Create an FSA ID

Anyone who needs to fill out the FAFSA (or portions of the FAFSA) will need to create an FSA ID if they do not already have one. If you are a dependent student, at least one of your parents will need to create an FSA ID as well. It will take up to 3 business days for your FSA ID to be processed and approved, so you will want to create your ID before you need to file your FAFSA. To create your FSA ID, please visit studentaid.gov. You will need your:

Young student talking on phone, holding a piece of paper and looking at a computer screen.

    • Social Security number (or alternative identity verification)
    • Full name as it appears on your birth certificate
    • Date of Birth
    • Contact Information (physical address, phone number, and email address)

More detailed information and helpful tips can be found on our FSA ID infographic. You may also consider attending a FAFSA Frenzy: FSA ID Event  for free assistance with setting up your FSA ID. 

3. Collect Important Information

The FAFSA will ask many questions that will require you to provide information about your taxes, wages, and certain assets. If you are a dependent students, you will also need this information for your parent(s). This FAFSA Checklist may be helpful to you as you consider what information you should have available when it is time to fill out the FAFSA. 

4. Identify your Parent/Contributor

mother using a laptop in kitchen with teenagerIf you are a dependent student, you must include information about your parent(s) when you fill out  your FAFSA application. We understand all families are unique – some parents may be divorced, remarried, or you may live with someone other than your parent. So, how do you know whose information you should report? The information offered in this flowchart may help you determine whose information you need. You may also consider reviewing this flowchart developed by Federal Student Aid

For more general information and helpful resources, please visit the 2024-2025 FAFSA Information webpage. You may also review our FAFSA Frequently Asked Questions for detailed information about common questions related to the FAFSA and FSA ID. Finally if you are not already we encourage you to follow Journey to College on social media for helpful tips, reminders, and the latest updates. 

FAFSA Delayed in 2023: What to Do Now?

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) will not be available until sometime in December this year instead of the typical October 1 release. This delay is due to the form undergoing many revisions aimed at making the FAFSA easier to complete and to provide more students with money to attend college.

There are steps you can take now to help you prepare to file your 2024-25 FAFSA this winter. We strongly encourage students and families to use this extra time to learn about the changes and make sure you are ready to fill out the new form when it opens. 

The easiest way to learn about the 2024-25 FAFSA is to take advantage of the resources on our 2024-25 FAFSA information page. There you’ll find easy-to-follow steps and important FAFSA information.

Before the FAFSA opens you first have to create an FSA ID on studentaid.gov if you don’t already have one. Anyone who needs to fill out the FAFSA or portions of the FAFSA will need to create an account. This account will allow you to fill out a FAFSA, sign it, and have it processed in the quickest way possible. It will also allow you to correct any information or prefill your FAFSA form with information from a previous year.

Help with creating an account and preparing for the FAFSA is available during free FAFSA Frenzy: FSA ID events in November and December. Check out the FAFSA Frenzy calendar to find an event near you.

Look ahead to the FAFSA Frenzy events in January, February, and March, when you can get assistance filing the FAFSA and enter to win a $500 Journey to College Scholarship. FAFSA Frenzy events are hosted at high schools, colleges, Missouri Job Centers, and libraries across the state.

When the 2024-25 FAFSA opens, it is important to fill it out the FAFSA as soon as possible because it could earn you more money. In Missouri, there are some deadlines to remember. To be eligible for the Access Missouri Financial Assistance Program, you must file your 2024-25 FAFSA by April 1, 2024. Students who qualify for Access Missouri and file before February 1, 2024, are guaranteed to receive an Access Missouri Award. 

Other deadlines to remember are June 30, 2024, the final day to file a FAFSA, and September 14, 2024, the last day to file corrections or updates to your FAFSA. Some colleges and universities have their own deadlines, so make sure you are meeting those as well.

We will continue to post updates and announce the official date the FAFSA will open once it is available. Follow MDHEWD’s social media pages for the latest helpful information and updates.

12 Ways to Make College More Affordable

Numerous financial barriers can stand in the way of a college education. That is why the State of Missouri offers many options to help knock down those barriers.

The Missouri Department of Higher Education & Workforce Development (MDHEWD), other state departments, and organizations help make college more affordable for students pursuing higher education in Missouri with various scholarships, grants, and programs.

There is free money out there to be had for Missourians. Whether you are in high school, college or even if you have already joined the workforce. This blog post is a quick and easy guide to financial aid options in Missouri.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Applications for most of the listed grants and scholarships can be found at dhewd.mo.gov or on the State Financial Aid Portal. For additional information on financial aid in Missouri, you can also call 800-473-6757 and select option 4. 

1. File a FAFSA

An easy way to see what financial aid you qualify for is by filing a FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, each year you plan to attend college.

You don’t even need to have a school picked before filing a FAFSA. Just file it between Oct.1-April 1, and you will receive information about what federal and state financial aid you qualify for and what aid is available through certain schools.

To be guaranteed an award through the Access Missouri Financial Assistance Program, file a FAFSA by the Feb. 1 priority deadline.

Hundreds and even thousands of dollars in financial aid are available for students who qualify for Access Missouri. There is no paperwork to fill out in addition to the FAFSA to apply. This is a need-based program designed to help students afford the Missouri school they want to attend. Financial eligibility is determined by your Student Aid Index (SAI), as calculated through the FAFSA.

Award amounts vary based on the school, your SAI, and the amount of money available for the program:

  • $300 – $1,300 if attending a participating public two-year school
  •  $1,500 – $2,850 if attending a participating public four-year, independent, or virtual institution, or State Technical College of Missouri

More information about filing a FAFSA is available on journeytocollege.mo.gov and studentaid.gov.

Note: Filing for the 2024-25 FAFSA will begin in December 2023 instead of October.

2. A+ Scholarship

If you attend an A+ high school, keep your GPA and attendance up, tutor or mentor classmates, score high on a math exam, and keep a clean criminal record, you can qualify for an A+ Scholarship.

However, this scholarship is limited to those planning to attend certain two-year schools. A list of A+ Scholarship-eligible schools and other requirements for qualifying for the A+ Scholarship are available on MDHEWD’s website

3. Bright Flight Scholarship

In a nutshell, the Bright Flight Scholarship awards thousands of dollars to students who score high on the ACT or SAT. 

There is no need to fill out an application for Bright Flight. All students need to do is enter the following code when registering for the ACT: 2379. Don’t worry if you didn’t enter that code. It can be added later for a fee. 

Students will qualify for up to $3,000 if they score at least a 32 on the ACT or achieve an SAT math score of 800 and an SAT critical reading score of 800. Up to $1,000 will be awarded to students who score 31 on the ACT or achieve an SAT match score of 770-700 and an SAT critical reading score of 760-700. 

Bright Flight Scholarship recipients can also renew annually until they earn a bachelor’s degree (up to 10 semesters).

For detailed information about Bright Flight visit MDHEWD’s website. You can also read our ACT Series for tips on how to prepare for each section of the ACT.

a high school student studying at the kitchen table

4. Dual Credit / Dual Enrollment Scholarship

Dual Credit/Dual Enrollment courses are a great opportunity to earn college credit before even stepping foot on campus. The credits count toward your high school and college coursework, so it’s a win-win.

Better yet, it is a way to earn college credit without having to pay the regular tuition cost. On top of that, there is scholarship money available to eliminate all costs for these courses.

If you meet certain financial need requirements, such as receiving free or reduced lunches or living in a foster home, and you have at least a 2.5 GPA, the Dual Credit/Dual Enrollment Scholarship could be an option.

To learn more about eligibility and applying for the Dual Credit/Dual Enrollment Scholarship, visit MDHEWD’s website.

5. Apprenticeships: Earn While You Learn

Working part-time while in high school or college is a traditional way of saving money to pay for tuition, housing, books, and other related expenses. But what if that job also provided college credit, training for a career, and an opportunity for full-time employment? Apprenticeships can help you add money to your college fund and set you up for a lifetime of career success. There are apprenticeships available in various industries across Missouri, including agriculture, construction, manufacturing, child development, health care, human resources, IT, transportation, and more.

There are several online resources to learn more about apprenticeships, including MDHEWD’s website, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s website, and moapprenticeconnect.com. You can also ask your high school counselor, college academic advisor, or search a university’s or college’s website for information about apprenticeships.

an apprentice working with his mentor in a carpentry workshop

6. Fast Track Workforce Incentive Grant

This one is specifically for adults seeking financial aid. The Fast Track Workforce Incentive Grant is for those 25 years old or older seeking a career that is considered to be in high demand.

An easy way to see if a program you are interested in is eligible for Fast Track is to search on MDHEWD’s website. You can search by school and by program. Fast Track has also expanded to include more training providers and apprenticeships. Plus, it won’t ever be converted into a loan like it was previously.

An application must be filled out for Fast Track on the State Financial Aid Portal.

Details about Fast Track are available on MDHEWD’s website, but we encourage you to contact our financial aid specialists by calling 800-473-6757 and selecting option 4 for the most up-to-date information.

7. Advanced Placement Incentive Grant

Who doesn’t want a free $500? High school students in AP classes who have two grades of three or higher on AP exams in math or science could receive a $500 Advanced Placement Incentive Grant.

Take a look at the eligibility requirements and the application on MDHEWD’s website.

8. Kids' Chance Scholarship Program

The Kids’ Chance Scholarship Program is a partnership between MDHEWD and Kids’ Chance, Inc. of Missouri to help children with a parent who was killed or seriously injured in a work-related accident that is covered by workers’ compensation.

This scholarship can provide thousands of dollars toward a college education each school year. Details about eligibility and how to apply are available on MDHEWD’s website

9. Minority and Underrepresented Environmental Literacy Program

This scholarship is awarded to students from minority and underrepresented groups who plan to study in the field of environmental sciences, such as agricultural engineering or wildlife management. Some requirements include being enrolled full-time and having a 3.0 high school GPA or 2.5 college GPA.

Eligibility requirements and an application can be viewed on MDHEWD’s website.

10. Public Service Officer or Employee's Child Survivor Grant Program

This grant program provides money for tuition to certain public employees and their family members if the employee was killed or disabled while working in the line of duty. This grant program is for full-time students (students with disabilities may be considered full-time when enrolled in six hours), and award amounts can be for up to the cost of 12 credit hours.

Visit DHEWD’s website for details and to access an application.

11. Wartime Veteran's Survivor Grant Program

The Wartime Veteran’s Survivor Grant Program assists spouses and children of veterans who were injured or died in combat since Sept. 11, 2001. Students can be eligible as half-time or full-time and receive money for tuition, room and board, and books.

A list of full requirements and more information on the Wartime Veteran’s Survivor Grant Program is available on MDHEWD’s website, and an application can be filled out on the State Financial Air Portal.

a woman scientist placing a bit of plant inside a test tube.

12. Education and Training Voucher (ETV) Program

This grant program provides money for tuition to certain public employees and their family members if the employee was killed or disabled while working in the line of duty. This grant program is for full-time students (students with disabilities may be considered full-time when enrolled in six hours), and award amounts can be for up to the cost of 12 credit hours.

Visit DHEWD’s website for details and to access an application.

Three Major Steps after Decision Day

Hey Seniors! Congratulations on a job well done!

It’s time to celebrate — and then think about what’s next! Don’t lose focus, there are a few major steps you need to accomplish before you’re ready to attend college this fall. For those who have not made a decision yet, there is still time!

Most schools, especially community colleges, have a rolling admissions policy. This means that they are constantly accepting students up to the beginning of classes in August. Here is some information that will be helpful:

1. Finalize all scholarships / financial aid

Two people staring at the screen of a laptop.

There are different ways to pay for school and most students have multiple sources to do so. Make sure your college has all your information so you are all set for the beginning of your semester, especially if you plan to take summer courses. Each student will be sent a document that considers all forms of your financial aid, including grants and loans from filing the FAFSA, institutional  scholarships, and private scholarships you have applied for separately. By confirming with the financial aid office at your chosen college, you will be able to confirm what your true total for school is. If you have questions don’t be afraid to ask your financial aid experts on campus!

For students who still haven’t decided, there is still time. The most important thing for you to do is file the FAFSA. Every year there are billions of dollars that go unclaimed by students that could earn financial aid but missed out because they did not file the FAFSA. If you have not applied to schools there is a chance you will still qualify for automatic scholarships they provide for academics. If there is a school you are interest in, reach out to their admissions office and they will fill you in on the steps you need to take. Find free help completing your FAFSA this summer at one of several events throughout Missouri.

2. Register for your Orientation

Students Walking down a Campus Hallway

After graduation, your college orientation will be the biggest day before you begin classes. You and thousands of fellow 

students will flood campus during the summer to get your plans finalized. Most orientations include meeting faculty in your major, setting up your course schedule, and confirming your housing. Orientation day offers you a chance to meet fellow freshmen for the first time and it is designed to be fun! Make sure you check out your school’s website and select an orientation date that works for you and your parents.

If you are still not decided, use this time to go on a college visit. A lot can change between the start and end of your senior year, so going to a campus with new perspective is vital.

3. Celebrate your Success!

A group of graduates celebrating their success.

The final months of senior year were like a whirlwind with spring sports ending, taking finals, and graduating. Take time to celebrate yourself! You are about to take part in one of the biggest changes of your life. That is something to be excited about. The more you can appreciate what it took to get to campus, the more invested you will be in your success while there.

For those who haven’t decided yet, don’t get down on yourself! All paths are not the same. In fact, most people go through ups and downs including changing majors or even schools. Remember that you have accomplished just as much by graduating high school and that your future is bright! Do not be afraid to ask for help while figuring out what’s next.

5 Reasons to File a FAFSA

Every year, the U.S. Department of Education gives roughly $120 billion in federal loans, grants, and work-study funds to more than 13 million college students. These funds are awarded only to those who file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

By not submitting a FAFSA, students are leaving billions of dollars on the table, and are missing out on a pretty great deal. Federal loans have low interest rates, federal grants don’t need to be repaid, and work-study programs are a great way to pay for college while building your resume. And about 90 percent of high school seniors who submit a FAFSA enroll in college the following fall semester, whereas only about half of the high school seniors who do not submit the form end up enrolling in the fall. Filing a FAFSA to see what financial aid you qualify for could be the deciding factor.

The point is, there is NO reason you shouldn’t submit a FAFSA, and countless good reasons why you SHOULD. Here are five:  

More than just a loan

While most students submit a FAFSA as a way of securing a low-interest loan from the federal government, filing a FAFSA is also the only way to become eligible for certain types of aid that don’t need to be paid back. Every year, millions of dollars in grants and scholarships from states and universities are distributed based on financial need, and the only way to qualify for this aid is by submitting a FAFSA.

Most students qualify

You may qualify for free aid, like the Pell grant, or Access Missouri grant, but you won’t know unless you file. Anyone with a household income below $250,000 is eligible to receive some form of federal aid, as long as they submit a FAFSA. While only 5 percent of U.S. households make too much money to qualify for federal aid, more than 40 percent of high school seniors fail to file a FAFSA.

Federal loans are easier to pay off than private loans

Some students, instead of filing a FAFSA, choose to borrow money from private lenders such as banks, credit unions, state agencies, and even schools. However, there are many benefits to choosing a federal student loan over a private student loan.

The first is interest rates. In most cases, the interest rate on Federal loans is lower than those of private loans. The federal interest rate is also fixed and won’t change, whereas private loans can have variable interest rates, which are harder to predict.

Payments on Federal loans aren’t due until six months after you graduate or leave college, so you’ll have a grace period to land on your feet before your first payment is due. However, many private lenders require students to start making payments while they are still finishing school. Federal loans can also be deferred or put in a forbearance period if you are experiencing certain hardships, like a job loss or medical issue.  

It’s free to submit

It costs nothing to file a FAFSA, and you won’t be required to accept any aid you are offered. High schools across Missouri host FAFSA Frenzy events, where students can receive free help filling out their FAFSA. The FAFSA is easier now than it has ever been, with more simplified questions coming in the next few years.

Your financial situation could change

Unexpected crises, such as a global pandemic, create financial difficulties. One day, you could have a complex spreadsheet, mapping out exactly how you plan to pay for every one of your expenses; the next day, something bad happens – your income level changes, your employer goes out of business, a family member has a medical emergency, etc. – and your entire plan is sent into a tailspin. When special circumstances arise, you can appeal to your college’s financial aid office for additional assistance. Filing the FAFSA gives them a starting point to understand your financial situation. If things have changed, colleges can often use what’s called “professional judgment” to help you overcome new financial challenges and help get you back on your feet.