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Navigating the 2024–2025 FAFSA: Your Simplified Guide


Last updated: February 23, 2024

Cairn’s Student Financial Services recently hosted a webinar that addressed common questions and concerns, including:

  • Is the FAFSA really simplified? We break down recent changes made by the Department of Education and what they mean for your family.
  • Navigating roadblocks: Learn how to overcome common obstacles that parents and students encounter when completing the FAFSA.
  • What to do next: Get actionable steps to take after completing the FAFSA to ensure your child receives the financial aid they deserve.
  • FAQs + Q & A: Have burning questions about the FAFSA or financial aid in general? We provide answers and address your concerns during our Q & A session.


To access this recorded webinar, click here.

This year, the FAFSA process looks a little different...

As we gear up for another academic year, exciting changes are on the horizon for students and families navigating the financial aid landscape. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) has undergone a significant transformation, promising a more user-friendly experience for applicants. In this blog post, we’ll explore the key updates to the FAFSA, important dates to remember, a few tips to ensure a smooth application process, and a variety of other helpful resources for you! 

Key FAFSA Update:

The FAFSA has long been a crucial tool for students seeking financial assistance for their higher education journey. However, feedback from users highlighted the need for a more straightforward and accessible application process. In response, the Department of Education has revamped the FAFSA, streamlining the form to make it more user-friendly for applicants. 

Enhanced User Interface

modernized and intuitive interface has been introduced to guide users through the application. Clear instructions and user-friendly prompts aim to eliminate confusion and increase the efficiency of the application process. This will eliminate time users need to spend filling out the application. The new application also takes inflation into account.

While those are the most impactful changes, please be aware of several smaller nuances of the FAFSA process, including: 

  • Individuals filing the FAFSA are now referred to as “Contributors.”
  • Each contributor is responsible for completing only their portion of the FAFSA. 
  • All contributors must sign the FAFSA within 45 days of the initial application for proper submission. 

Important Dates to Remember:

As a result of these changes, the 2024–2025 FAFSA timeline looks different this year. Traditionally, the FAFSA opens in October. This year, however, it did not open until December. With that in mind, we have provided an example timeline of what to expect with the new availability date. We encourage you to mark your calendars with the following key dates to ensure you don’t miss out on crucial opportunities: 

December 31, 2023 The FAFSA Launches
January 1, 2024 You Complete the FAFSA
March 15 Cairn Receives your FAFSA
March 25-April 1 You Receive an Offer of Aid

While there is a major delay in when your FAFSA will be sent to Cairn, you can anticipate receiving your financial aid offer within one week of March 15 if you have already filled out your FAFSA. We encourage that you complete your FAFSA application no later than May 1 in order to ensure we can get your offer of aid back to you as soon as possible.


Application Page: Now that the FAFSA site has opened, be aware that website traffic may be high around the first few days of the application opening. 

Deadlines: The Department of Education has explained that institutions will begin receiving the applications beginning in mid March. Offers of Aid can be sent shortly after applications begin being accepted and received. 

Verification Period: Be prepared for a potential verification process after submitting your FAFSA, where the Department of Education may identify information that should be verified. If verification is required for you, Cairn will notify you and explain next steps.

Tips for a Smooth Application Process:

  • Create a Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID

    To access and sign your FAFSA electronically, both the student and a parent/guardian will each need to create an FSA ID. Keep this login information secure and easily accessible. *If you are creating an FSA ID for the first time, please note it could take up to 4 days for your ID to be processed and verified*

  • Apply online early

    This allows you to receive maximum Federal, State, and University Aid.

  • Locate personally identifiable documents

    This includes a driver’s license and social security card.

  • Fill out the FAFSA with your parent (or student)

    That way you can complete it all at once (and use Cairn’s FAFSA code 003351 when you're filling it out).

  • Contact Financial Aid if you have any questions

    [email protected] is the best way to reach us!

Other Helpful Resources:

  • The FAFSA Issue Alerts Page is an on-going site that allows users to know about current and fixed issues that applicants may run into when filling out the application. If a parent or student is running into an issue with their application, refer to this page to see what the status of your issue.
  • Cairn Scholarship Estimator is a great way to get a more accurate approximation of what your aid could look like for Cairn. Our admission staff will review your submission and contact you shortly to discuss your aid.
  • The Student Aid Index (SAI) is the new calculation for determining student financial need. The SAI estimator assesses the Federal funding a student can receive.
    Be aware: This estimator was released in September, but otherwise, the new SAI calculations have not been made available to Financial Aid Administrators or to the public. We would advise anyone using this to take caution as SAI, PELL grant, loan, and Federal work study amounts generated likely do not reflect accurate numbersespecially given the fact that the FAFSA release date continues to be pushed back.

Feel free to also check out a helpful FAFSA tutorial from our Provost, Dr. Adam Porcella.

Remember, we are here to help! You can always contact Student Financial Services at [email protected] with any questions, or you can learn more at about our tuition and financial aid at 

Last updated: February 8, 2024


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