If there’s one thing you should do this year regarding financial aid, make it the FAFSA®. To apply for most financial aid─including federal and state student grants, work-study, and loans─you’ll need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). There are many free resources to help you.
Where can the FAFSA be found?
Complete, submit, and update your application online at studentaid.gov. It’s the easiest way to fill out the FAFSA and apply for federal aid.
When will the FAFSA become available?
The FAFSA is being simplified and redesigned to make applying for federal student aid easier. This means that students attending college in the fall of 2024 and spring of 2025 will be able to complete the form in December 2023 instead of October when it usually opens. In future years, the FAFSA will go back to opening on October 1.
Before You Apply
Complete income tax returns.
Beginning with 2024-25 FAFSA, all persons included on the FAFSA will be required to use an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Direct Data Exchange to share federal tax information to complete the FAFSA or confirm that you or your parent didn’t file a federal tax return. This change makes it easier to complete the FAFSA and reduces the number of questions your family will need to answer. To take advantage of this new and improved process, keep in mind that your family’s 2022 taxes must be filed before beginning your FAFSA application.
Create an FSA ID.
Before you start your FAFSA, you’ll need to create an FSA ID, which is a username and password used to complete the FAFSA, take out loans, and log in to all Federal Student Aid websites. To create an FSA ID as a student, you’ll need your social security number (SSN), name, date of birth, and a unique email address and password, as well as a multifactor authentication option of your choice. If required, parent(s) (regardless of whether they have an SSN or not) will create their own account using their own unique email address and password. Set up your username and password at least a week before you start your FAFSA. Learn how to create an FSA ID.
See a list of the documents you need to get started.
Completing the Application
Be sure to complete your FAFSA soon after it becomes available. Filling out your FAFSA as early as possible ensures you’ll be considered for all types of federal financial aid. In many cases, you’ll also be considered for financial aid funded directly by colleges and universities. Be sure to check application requirements and filing deadlines posted on financial aid websites. Applications in addition to the FAFSA may be required to receive state or institutional aid.
For help filling out your FAFSA, go to Federal Student Aid’s Filling Out the FAFSA Form. It has a detailed question-by-question guide to filling out the FAFSA.
Provide consent on the FAFSA.
Consenting to allow the IRS to share your tax information with the FAFSA is required to be eligible for federal financial aid. This is required even if you or your parent(s) or guardian(s) didn’t file taxes, filed taxes outside of the Unites States, or don’t have an SSN. If you or your parent(s) or guardian(s) don’t provide consent, you won’t be eligible for federal financial aid.
What Happens After You Apply
Once you submit the FAFSA, your family’s financial information will be processed, and your information will be shared with the colleges you listed on the form.
The FAFSA Submission Summary
Once your FAFSA has been submitted and processed, you’ll receive an email letting you know your FAFSA Submission Summary is ready to review on studentaid.gov. Your FAFSA Submission Summary contains a summary of the information you entered on the FAFSA, your Student Aid Index (SAI), estimated federal student aid, and any issues you need to address.
Review the FAFSA Submission Summary’s Next Steps section carefully for errors. Follow directions for making and submitting corrections. Be sure to submit corrections promptly so your colleges have the most up-to-date information.
Student Aid Index (SAI)
At the bottom of the Eligibility Overview section of the FAFSA Submission Summary, you'll find a figure called the Student Aid Index (SAI). Your SAI is a number that’s calculated using information you provide on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The SAI is used to determine your eligibility for federal financial aid programs, like the Federal Pell Grant and federal student loans. It’s sent to the colleges you listed on your FAFSA. These colleges will use your SAI to create your financial aid offer or award. Learn more about the SAI.
Other Financial Aid Forms
After you complete the FAFSA, make sure you submit any additional financial aid forms your colleges require. For example, some colleges require you to submit the CSS Profile or their own institutional forms, while some states may have additional state financial aid applications.