FAFSA updates cause delays and concerns


This year, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) has attempted to implement a new method for calculating the amount of financial aid each student will receive, resulting in unanticipated delays in the financial aid process and by extension, the college decision process. In addition to the delays, FAFSA has also changed how it counts families with multiple students in college and will no longer consider the number of students going to college within one family when determining how much financial aid each student will receive. 

Berkeley High School college counselor Yasmin Navarro noted that while many of FAFSA’s updates ultimately make the process more convenient, the timing of its release has made it particularly stressful for students. 

“I think what’s wrong with FAFSA right now is that they made changes without having next steps, and so now they’re realizing halfway through,” Navarro said. She explained that these delays have also caused a lot of confusion and miscommunication surrounding its delays, as deadlines are constantly changing, and keeping students and schools on the same page is a struggle. 

“Students are so freaked out right now because here’s the thing, colleges are still sending students emails that say ‘FAFSA due by 15th of February’ when those are all scheduled emails that colleges should’ve known to put a pause on,” Navarro said. 

Navarro also explained that beyond these delays, students who are undocumented or unhoused are facing larger barriers when it comes to filling out the application. However, she said that the CCC staff is there to support students with whatever challenges they are facing with filling out FAFSA. Navarro noted that the delays may also provide students more of an opportunity to reach out for help than they otherwise would have. 

“Luckily, as much as it sucks that FAFSA’s not being processed until March of 2024, that also means that we’re sort of in a holding stage,” said Navarro. “So, if anyone needs help, this is the time to get it.”

BHS senior Eva Antonuccio said that she has seen FAFSA’s delays affect college admissions as a whole. Antonuccio explained that upon receiving a rejection from a college, she was informed that their admissions process had changed as a result of these delays. 

“In the letter, … because they don’t know how much aid students will get from FAFSA, (they) basically said they have to be more selective than they usually are, so they’re not waitlisting people as much, and they’re either accepting or rejecting, which is changing their process,” Antonuccio said.

Antonuccio noted that overall, there seemed to be a lot of anxiety for BHS seniors regarding submitting FAFSA since so many students rely on financial aid to be able to go to college. Antonuccio explained that her experience submitting it had been challenging because of a flaw in the FAFSA form that she encountered. 

“Before we submitted it, we reviewed all the questions, and there were some things on there that had showed up as we didn’t answer them, but we hadn’t been asked them, so then it was a matter of reaching out and figuring out why it was showing up like that,” said Antonuccio. 

Sara Bouhedda, another BHS senior, said that she was also stressed by the changes in FAFSA’s aid accommodations, specifically those for families with multiple children attending college.

“I was stressed out that my parents might have to pay more and that FAFSA wouldn’t cover as much of the cost,” said Bouhedda.