In the highly anticipated lead-up to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) opening day, students were met with unexpected frustration and confusion. The widely relied upon application, scheduled to open its doors on the promised date, December 31st, left hopeful applicants in a state of distress as technical glitches and unforeseen factors delayed the availability of the form.
In previous years, the FAFSA form was released on October 1st; however, with new updates, the form went from one-hundred-eight questions to thirty-eight questions; the FAFSA was now scheduled to be released on December 31st, 2023. With college application deadlines approaching, students felt immense pressure to submit their applications as soon as possible. Dana Jadunauth, a senior, recounts her experience in trying to access the form.
“FAFSA said they were opening on December 31st, so I had a game plan of filling out the form as soon as it opened, so I stayed up till twelve am to try to open the form… I stayed up till three am actually, and at that time the form did not open. I was hoping by the time I woke up, the form would be available and everything would be okay,” Dana Jadunauth said.
FAFSA announced their website was going through planned maintenance and had the form under a soft launch release, which meant the form would only be available periodically. This still left users with unanswered questions as there was no official time the form would be available. Ricky Chen, a senior, describes his encounter with the FAFSA website.
“My experience opening the FAFSA was extremely stressful, and it was such a bad experience with checking every hour to check if the form was open for the past two days, and it was just not opening, even though they said it was going to open on the thirty-first,” Ricky Chen said.
After some time, students were finally able to access the form, but even with fewer questions, some had a difficult time answering the unclear prompts. With the unpredictability of the FAFSA website, some wouldn’t have enough time to ask for help regarding the application, before the form closed for maintenance. Jamila Hussain, a senior, narrates her firsthand experience after gaining access to the form.
“Eventually yes, I filled out the form… it was not a good experience, I wished I received a lot of help from the school and counselors,” Jamila Hussain said.
As more users are able to access the site, FAFSA has observed user response and reaction, and have made adjustments to the increase of netizens, announcing the times the form is available on social media and answering questions about filling out the form. With the implementation of a new system, FAFSA has made a commitment to comprehend user needs, learning along side the applicant.
“The experience of actually filling out the form was fairly simple, however the waiting time really made me feel anxious and stressed. I’m just happy that I got it over and done with,” Dana Jadunauth said.