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How to Fill out the FAFSA


The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the ticket that opens doors to financial aid. It serves as the application for most financial aid from federal and state programs as well as from colleges and universities. Even if you are not sure that you will need financial aid, we recommend that you fill out a FAFSA anyway - it's free.

Prepare and Submit

Prepare and submit your FAFSA as soon as possible after October 1 of the year prior to your college start date. For example, if you plan to attend college beginning in the fall of 2018, you may submit your FAFSA after October 1, 2017 and until June 30, 2019.

Confused? Use the FAFSA WHEN? Calculator to see during which date range you can file your FAFSA as well as learn what tax return year to use for the period you plan to attend.


The quickest and most accurate way to file the FAFSA is online. In contrast to a paper copy, the online form displays only the data entry fields you need to complete. You also receive directions as you need them.

What you Need

To complete the FAFSA you will need your parents' federal tax return (or your own if you are an independent student). There is also a FAFSA on the Web WorksheetNew window icon (En Espanol) that you can download. While the worksheets are slightly different from the FAFSA itself, they may help you gather all the information you may need. Read detailed instructions for each question on the FAFSA and, all about parents in terms of FAFSA completion.


The FSA ID is your electronic signature for the FAFSA - and to sign online, your parent(s) must get one too. The FSA ID consists of a username and password for students, parents, and loan borrowers.

If you are a new user, you will be asked to provide identification information to obtain an FSA ID before proceeding to the FAFSA. Students that already have an FSA ID will provide their email address and FSA ID password to proceed to the FAFSA.  To get started, go through the FSA ID registration process.New window icon.

If you prefer to fill out a paper copy of the FAFSA, you can obtain one through a link at the bottom of the FAFSA log in page.

And Then...

The FAFSA may not be the only form required to receive an award letter from a school. You must also complete the college admissions process. Check with each of the colleges and universities you listed on your FAFSA to determine their specific requirements.

If you filed your FAFSA electronically, you will receive an electronic Student Aid Report (SAR) within a few days of submitting your completed FAFSA. (SAR results may take three weeks if you file a paper FAFSA.) The SAR is the result of your FAFSA. Read it immediately and follow any directions. The schools you listed on the FAFSA will also receive your results.

Filing the FAFSA

Step by step:

  1. Use the FAFSA WHEN? Calculator to see when to file
  2. Complete the FAFSA on the Web Worksheet New window icon
  3. Register for your FSA IDNew window icon.
  4. Read 11 Common FAFSA Mistakes
  5. Use the FAFSA Transfer Module