There’s no doubt that obtaining funds to pay for college can be stressful. Each year, the entire financial aid process starts with completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (or FAFSA®) form. Your FAFSA data is used by your college to determine your eligibility for scholarships, grants, and loans. While the task may seem overwhelming, our Top 10 Tips will make the process go more easily for you.
Top 10 Tips for Completing the FAFSA® Form
- Every student should complete the FAFSA® form each academic year, even if you don’t think you’ll qualify for federal aid. Completing the FAFSA® form makes you eligible for federal, state, and institutional aid – in the form of loans, as well as grants and scholarships that can save you money.
- You should file the FAFSA® form as soon as possible after it opens on October 1, even if you haven’t applied or decided on a college yet. In general, if you file around October 1, you’ll likely make your college and state FAFSA deadlines, but it’s best to check those deadlines to ensure you apply in time. Out-of-state students should apply by the state deadline for your school.
- List any school you’re interested in on your application, even if you haven’t applied yet or received an acceptance letter. If you apply to more colleges after you’ve already filed the FAFSA® form, you can add those later on in order to be considered for grants, scholarships, and other institutional aid.
- Things you’ll need to get started include your Social Security number (or alien registration number if you’re not a U.S. citizen) and your federal income tax return and other forms. To complete the form, you’ll provide personal information, financial information, and information about your legal parent if you’re a dependent student.
- Parents and students should create their own unique FSA ID, which is a user name and password that serves as your electronic signature. Your FSA ID allows you to easily sign loan and other documents electronically or via the mobile app. Parents and students should keep their FSA IDs separate and not share them with anyone.
- Take advantage of the Internal Revenue Service Data Retrieval Tool to securely transfer information electronically from a federal tax return to the FAFSA® form, to simplify the application process.
- Go to StudentAid.gov for help with completing or renewing your FAFSA, starting with this page. If you have additional questions, you can even Ask Aidan®, the FSA chatbot.
- Your legal parent must sign your completed FAFSA® form using their own FSA ID if you’re a dependent student. For more information on your status or help determining which parent’s information should be included, visit gov/dependency or contact your school’s financial aid office.
- Submit your FAFSA® form online, via mobile app, by printing and mailing the PDF form, or having your school submit it on your behalf. If you submit online and provide an email address, you’ll receive confirmation that your application is being processed. After it’s processed, you’ll be contacted by all the listed schools on your application that you’ve been accepted to – letting you know about financial aid you’re eligible for at the school.
- You can make changes if you find you’ve made an error or if financial information changes drastically after you’ve filed the FAFSA® To learn more about submitting corrections or making changes, visit FSA’s website.