The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is usually the first step for students trying to figure out their college finances. But recent hiccups with FAFSA reporting, combined with a dip in the number of applications, are throwing new curveballs for students and the professionals guiding them through the processes of enrollment and student recruitment. To tackle these issues, a group of admissions and financial aid leaders came together for a roundtable discussion to exchange their thoughts, strategies, and insights on managing the complications caused by these delays. Here’s what they had to say.



FAFSA fatigue is not just a term but a palpable sentiment felt across the educational sector. The delays are more than just bureaucratic snags; they significantly stress students and their families while also stretching campus resources even thinner than usual. The roundtable provided a forum for participants to express their frustrations and discuss the challenges openly.


Estimated Packages as a Lifeline

A major point of discussion was the use of estimated financial aid packages to lessen the effects of FAFSA delays. For instance, a small college in the Midwest has begun using the CSS profile to craft and hand out estimated aid packages. This initiative has opened beneficial dialogues with families, although the full benefits are yet to be seen. Similarly, John Carroll University in Ohio now allows students to access estimated packages via their student portal, basing these figures on the Student Aid Index (SAI).1

Amplifying Support and Communication

The delays have sparked a rise in webinars and workshops to help students and families navigate FAFSA filing. Schools are making extra efforts to keep communication lines open, discussing everything from the best ways to encourage FAFSA completion to adjusting enrollment deadlines in light of these delays. Some schools have even pushed back these deadlines to later in May or early- to mid-June to give students enough time to arrange their finances, while others are pushing out substantial new communications through various channels to encourage students to file their FAFSAs if they have not already done so.

Addressing the Cost Conversation

With the ongoing delays, talking about college costs and value has gotten trickier. The group shared various approaches to this issue, focusing on making college affordable, providing gap counseling, and ensuring that staff are prepared to discuss financial options clearly and sympathetically.

Finding the right approach to talk about college costs and value with families isn’t the only vexing issue resulting from the delays. Likewise, participants also highlighted barriers to forecasting projected headcount and net tuition revenue for a class whose cycle can’t be compared to years past. With most institutions relying heavily on tuition dollars, many may not be able to finalize budgets on the same timeline as in previous years, forcing leadership to find ways to expedite budget planning and potentially with less information than usual.

Action steps and poll results

Following the roundtable, institutions are looking at practical steps like outsourcing customer service calls, producing better documentation, and prioritizing staff training. The urgency of these actions was reflected in the responses to the poll participants answered during the roundtable, which revealed high levels of frustration, with a general consensus on the significant impacts of FAFSA delays on both new and returning students.

An Inspiring Anecdote

Amidst the discussions, one standout story came from a veteran in the financial aid field. She shared that despite the current challenges, she has learned over her 30-year career not to sweat the small stuff—especially those things out of her control—because getting frustrated doesn’t really help anyone. Her calming perspective added a welcome and wise flavor to the discussions, reminding everyone that sometimes patience and experience are among the best tools at our disposal.


The "Navigating FAFSA Delays Roundtable" underscored the adaptability and creative spirit within the education sector facing these challenges. The strategies shared, from crafting estimated financial aid packages to boosting communication efforts, underline a unified commitment to support students. As everyone works through these complications, the insights from this roundtable provide crucial guidance on mitigating the effects of FAFSA delays and ensuring financial aid continues to make higher education accessible for all.

1John Carroll University. Delays in FAFSA Availability Creating Challenges for College-Seeking Students. 7 Feb. 2024. News Release. 14 Feb. 2024. < >.