How to Fill out the FAFSA
FAFSA is the KEY!
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the key
that opens the door 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
2017, you may submit your FAFSA after October 1,
2016. As a result (in this example), you would use
your parent's 2015 tax return, the so called
"prior-prior year" tax return, when filing your FAFSA. Be sure to
meet any college or state deadlines as well.
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 Worksheet 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 about 11 Common FAFSA Mistakes, and, here are some tips for your parents to review.
Beginning in May 2015, the United States Department of Education
replaceed the Financial Aid PIN with the FSA ID. The FSA ID consists of a username and
password and replaced the PIN for students, parents, and loan
If you are a new user, you will be asked to
fill out a registration form for your FSA ID. If you are a
user with an existing PIN, upon logging on you
will be sent directly to the FSA ID site and asked for your PIN
number. If your information matches the information they have on
file, your account will be linked directly to an FSA ID account.
Please note in order to have your current information link to your
FSA ID, you must log on and go through the registration process..
If you prefer to fill out a paper copy of the FAFSA, you can
obtain one by calling the Federal Student Aid Information Center at
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.