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College 101: What does Prior-Prior Mean for You?

If you’ve begun the process of applying to colleges, you might have heard the term “prior-prior” thrown around. But what exactly does this mean? Prior-prior (or PPY) refers to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and a recent policy change that allows families to complete the form and file for financial aid using tax documents from two years ago, or the “prior-prior” year.

Students no longer have to wait for delayed tax information to apply for financial aid, which is good news for everyone. In today’s College 101 feature, we outline these changes and discuss how they affect the application process.


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Why Should I File a FAFSA?

financial aid
The FAFSA form is instrumental in determining what type of financial aid packages students will receive from a school. Using tax information, each institution’s Financial Aid Office calculates the package an applicant is awarded, ranging from need-based scholarships to grants and loans. The amount is determined using data from the tax transcript submitted along with the FAFSA form.

At many institutions, a student’s application is not considered complete until the FAFSA form is submitted. In short: file the FAFSA to determine what financial aid you’ll receive and to make sure your application is complete. Even if you think your family won’t qualify for financial aid, there may be housing grants or other awards available.


What’s the Big Deal with PPY?

financial aid
Until this year, the amount of aid calculated using the FAFSA forms was based on the most recent tax documents available. Federal tax information for the prior year is not available until January. Previously students would complete their college applications in the fall, but have to wait until January to file the FAFSA.

With the recent introduction of PPY, students and their families are able to file the FAFSA form much earlier. In fact, forms will be available in October this year, a full three months earlier than in previous years.


Why does PPY matter to me?

financial aid
The ability to file your FAFSA form in October, as opposed to January, has many benefits for the student. When students apply for financial aid earlier, schools can in turn provide financial aid decisions sooner. This means you can make an informed decision about which institution to attend much earlier in the process. The October availability also aligns more closely with traditional admissions deadlines, meaning there will be no conflict for priority applications such as Early Action or Honors programs.

Paying for college can be challenging, but this change to the FAFSA process is one that will help students and their families make better, more informed financial aid decisions.