FAFSA: Financial Aid Resources & Common Questions
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is required to pay for school with need-based financial aid, such as scholarships, grants, work-study, and student loans. Get to know the FAFSA, why every student needs to submit or renew it, and how it makes college more affordable for U.S. families.
What is the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)?The FAFSA, which stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is a financial aid application that is used to determine the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) as well as eligibility for need-based financial aid.
Students will first fill the FAFSA out during their senior year of high school as well as renew the FAFSA each subsequent year after while they are enrolled in college and/or graduate school.
The FAFSA will ask for student financial information, family size and the number of family members enrolled in college as well as the student's age, marital status and other demographic characteristics. All of the information given will be used to determine whether the applicant is an independent or dependent student. If a student is dependent, parent information will also be required on the FAFSA.
Why should I fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)?Completing and submitting the FAFSA is free and gives you access to federal student financial aid to pay for college, graduate or career school education. In addition, it can be used to apply for state grants, emergency federal grants, and money from most colleges and universities.
Who needs to fill out the free, federal student aid form (FAFSA)?All students need to complete the FAFSA.
High school seniors that are planning to attend any post-secondary school after graduation, and their parents will need to complete the FAFSA. If the student is a dependent student, the application asks for financial information from both students and parents.
Current college students must renew their FAFSA each year of college. If the student is an independent student, the FAFSA asks for information from the student only. Married students will need to provide financial information from their spouse.
- Studentaid.gov: Dependency Status
- FAFSA Eligibility
- Federal Financial Aid and the FAFSA Independent Student
- Can I Be Independent on FAFSA If I am Under Age 24?
- Options for a Student Whose Parents Refuse to Complete the FAFSA
- Which of a Student's Divorced Parents Must Complete the FAFSA? Is the Stepparent's Information Reported on the FAFSA?
- Help! Parents Won't File the FAFSA or Help Pay for College
What do I need to fill out the FAFSA?Besides a FAFSA worksheet, school codes, and a FSA ID, you may also find these tools and articles helpful:
What is a FSA ID?
An FSA ID is a username and password that is generated in order to fill out the FAFSA. The FSA ID is used to:
- Sign in and out of the online FAFSA form
- Confirm your identity
- Serve as your legal signature to sign and submit the document electronically
Students and parents must create separate FSA IDs; they cannot use one master FSA ID for the whole family.
To create your FSA ID, you’ll need to have your Social Security Number, cell phone number, and personal email address.
Where do I get the FAFSA worksheet, school code, and my FSA ID?You can get all these items to complete your FAFSA directly from StudentAid.gov:
How do I fill out the FAFSA?The two best ways to complete your Free Application for Federal Student Aid are online or via the myStudentAid mobile app. Using the online form or the app to submit your FAFSA are the quickest and most accurate methods.
You can also choose to have the paper FAFSA mailed to you by calling the U.S. Department of Education 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243). If you don’t provide an email address on your FAFSA application, your Student Aid Report (SAR) will be mailed to you.
Where can I find help to fill out the FAFSA?First, utilize the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. This tool transfers all the necessary income tax information from the prior year, which is the financial data used to determine financial aid eligibility, directly onto the FAFSA form.
Using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool will speed up the application process but also help you avoid mistakes. Prefill your application by clicking “Link to IRS” on the financial information section of the FAFSA.
Students and their parents can also find helpful, step-by-step information at studentaid.gov or right here on Fastweb: FAFSA HELP
You may also find help in your local community. High school guidance counselors and college financial aid administrators can provide one-on-one assistance for students and parents as they navigate the FAFSA. Some regions also host in-person weeknights or weekend events where financial aid experts are available to answer questions and help families complete the FAFSA.
When is the FAFSA due?The FAFSA becomes available to complete on October 1 every year. The FAFSA has a 21-month application cycle and can be submitted as late as June 30 of the academic year, or by the last day of classes if that falls first.
The FAFSA opens on October 1 of each year. The 2022-23 FAFSA opens, Oct. 1, 2021. It’s ideal to submit your FAFSA form as soon as you can after Oct. 1. This will help you ensure you don’t miss out on aid options. There are three FAFSA deadlines:
- School - Your school/college often sets its own priority deadline for the FAFSA. Apply by your college's priority date, to get the most aid possible
- State - Each state has its own FAFSA deadline, and state financial aid funds are given on a first-come, first-served basis. Find my FAFSA State Deadline.
- Federal - The Federal FAFSA Deadline, is the final deadline. This deadline occurs on June 30 of the school year you’re applying for. Federal student aid programs have limited funds, so strive to apply earlier than the June 30 deadline.
What should I do after I submit the FAFSA?Some states and colleges require additional financial aid information. Check with the state or college to see if that’s the case. If so, complete those forms just after the FAFSA.
Once the FAFSA has been reviewed, students will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR), which can be reviewed online by inputting the FSA ID. The SAR will show the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). An EFC is an estimate of how much a family can afford to pay out of pocket and that determines financial need.
Colleges will take a look at the EFC and provide you with a personalized financial aid package. The financial aid package may contain grants, work-study, or student loans.
- Guide to Financial Aid Award Letters
- Choosing the Best Financial Aid to Accept
- Financial Aid Comparison Worksheet
It’s up to you and your parents/guardians to decide which parts of the financial aid package to accept and decline. Students can also negotiate their financial package with the school through appeals process if they feel the financial aid package is not enough to help cover total college costs.
Finally, students should keep in mind that the FAFSA must be filed every year in order to qualify for financial aid. Filling out the application will be much easier in subsequent years as a FAFSA renewal is all that is required.
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