Everything You Need to Know About the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)

FAFSA Application

You may have heard from a school counselor, financial aid administrator, or your parents that the FAFSA is changing this year. You may also be asking yourself these questions. What’s the FAFSA? Do I need it to attend college? Is it complicated? Take a breath. We’ve got you covered.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, commonly known as the FAFSA, is an application students fill out to be considered for federal financial aid. Filling out the FAFSA is the only way to apply for federal financial aid. However, states, colleges, and even scholarship providers may also use the FAFSA to determine eligibility for the financial aid they provide.

Find out more about FAFSA and how you can prepare your application.


Who should fill out the FAFSA?

If you need assistance paying for college and are eligible for federal financial aid, you should fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Federal financial aid is available for U.S. citizens and eligible noncitizens (like permanent residents and individuals who meet certain noncitizen criteria). The application is free, and help is available along the way. You should complete the FAFSA every year you plan to attend college. You (the student) should complete the FAFSA, but your parent/guardian will also need to create an account to provide some of the required information. For more on student eligibility for financial aid, continue reading this article.

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When should I fill out the FAFSA?

The federal deadline for completing the FAFSA is June 30. However, many states and colleges have their own priority deadlines that may be much earlier. Complete your FAFSA as early as you can to ensure you don’t miss your chance to receive financial aid. Some types of financial aid are limited. Colleges may award these funds on a first-come, first-served basis. Visit your college’s website to see what their deadlines are. Find your state’s deadline here.

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How do I fill out the FAFSA ?

Complete the FAFSA online by logging in with your Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID at studentaid.gov. An FSA ID is a username and password used by students and parents to complete and sign the FAFSA. If you haven’t created an FSA ID yet, create one at studentaid.gov.

Most families completing the FAFSA will consent to share their federal tax information directly from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). This data exchange between the IRS and the FAFSA makes completing the application easier and reduces the number of questions you must answer.

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What information does the FAFSA require?

If you’re considered dependent (completing the FAFSA with your parent(s) information), you need to provide:

  • General demographic information.
  • High school and college information.
  • Federal income tax returns.
  • Current bank statements.
  • Records of investments and other assets.

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Do I need my parent’s information to fill out the FAFSA?

Most students are considered dependent when completing the FAFSA, meaning that parental information is required. Your dependency status determines whose information must be included when you fill out the FAFSA. If you’re considered independent by the FAFSA, you won’t be required to provide parental or guardian information.

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How do I submit the FAFSA?

After filling out the FAFSA, you and your parent(s), if parental information is required, must sign and submit the application. If you complete the FAFSA online, you must sign the form with your FSA ID. If you complete a paper FAFSA, you must sign the paper form and mail it to the address listed. The FAFSA will take a few days to process if signed and submitted online. Processing will take longer if you mail in a paper form.

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What happens if I don’t complete the FAFSA?

If you don’t complete the FAFSA, you won’t be able to receive federal financial aid. You may also be ineligible for certain types of college scholarships and state aid. If you can’t complete the FAFSA due to missing information or difficulty with the form, contact your college financial aid office for additional help.

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Can undocumented students complete the FAFSA?

Undocumented students, including students with temporary protected status and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students, aren’t eligible for federal aid. You may be eligible for financial aid from your state, college, or a scholarship provider. Reach out to the financial aid office at the colleges you’re considering. Explore alternatives to federal student aid. For additional information and some frequently asked questions, look here.

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How do I create an FSA ID?

Students who are eligible for and applying for federal financial aid and parents who are required to be listed on the FAFSA need to create FSA IDs.

To create an FSA ID you’ll need:

  • Your social security number (if you have one). .
  • Your date of birth.
  • Your full legal name (written exactly as it appears on your social security card).
  • An email address you have access to.
  • A mobile phone number (optional).
  • A mailing address

A social security number, mobile phone number, and email address can only be associated with one FSA ID. This means you can’t make multiple accounts for yourself, and if you share an email or phone number with someone, only one person can use that information to create an FSA ID.

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What happens after I submit the FAFSA?

It may take a few weeks for your selected schools to receive your FAFSA information after you submit. Keep an eye on your email to ensure you don't miss any important notifications from schools.  

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