To reapply for financial aid, returning Macalester students who are U.S. Citizens/Permanent Residents must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). For the 2017-2018 academic year, two aspects of the FAFSA are changing: it will be available starting on October 1, 2016, and it will use 2015 financial information.

Please make sure to file your FAFSA between October 1, 2016 and May 15, 2017. If you file your FAFSA within this timeframe, you will receive next year's financial aid eligibility notification by mid-June. The earlier you file your FAFSA, the sooner we can let you know if we need any additional documents from you.

Changes to the 2017-2018 FAFSA

The 2017-2018 FAFSA will use 2015 financial information. In the past, the FAFSA has used information from one year prior, so the information will now be from two years prior. The FAFSA will also be available earlier, starting on October 1 instead of January 1.

Using financial information from an earlier year is expected to make it easier for families to input exact financial information, instead of estimating and returning to the FAFSA later to make updates. Since most families will have filed their 2015 tax returns long before completing the 2017-2018 FAFSA, Macalester encourages families to use the IRS data retrieval tool in the FAFSA. This tool securely transfers tax information from the IRS to the FAFSA and reduces the likelihood that you will need to submit additional documents to us. In the past, many families were not able to use this tool since they had not yet filed their tax returns from the previous year or had only just recently filed them.

UPDATE: Due to security issues, the Department of Education and the IRS have announced that the IRS data retrieval tool on the FAFSA will be unavailable indefinitely. Since you will not be able to use this tool, please have your 2015 tax documents on hand when completing your 2017-2018 FAFSA to make sure you enter accurate information.

More information on the IRS data retrieval tool.

Conflicting Information

The 2016-2017 FAFSA and the 2017-2018 FAFSA both use 2015 financial information, so the financial information on each FAFSA should be the same. If the information does not match, your SAR (Student Aid Report) from the Department of Education may contain the following message:

“Your Financial Aid Administrator may contact you to resolve any issues related to differences in the 2015 income information you reported on your 2016-2017 FAFSA and 2017-2018 FAFSA.”

This message is called a 399 code message, and it means that the conflicting information must be resolved before we can award your financial aid. We recommend that you log in to and review both your 2016-2017 FAFSA and your 2017-2018 FAFSA to see what the differences are. If your 2016-2017 FAFSA is correct, you should update your 2017-2018 FAFSA to match it. If your 2017-2018 FAFSA is correct, please update your 2016-2017 FAFSA and also contact our office to let us know.

Please note that some of the financial information does not need to match. For instance, the FAFSA asks you to report the total balance of your checking and savings accounts as of the day you submit the FAFSA. Since this question asks for current information, it does not need to match what you reported on your 2016-2017 FAFSA. However, any question that asks about 2015 financial information should match.

Please contact us if you need any assistance with this issue.