Banner Image

Applying for Federal student aid (FAFSA)

Applying using the FAFSA

APPLY FOR FEDERAL FINANCIAL AID NOW!

APPLICATIONS FOR THE 2018-2019 YEAR BEGINS OCTOBER 1, 2017

To apply for Federal financial aid, you will need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Completing and submitting the FAFSA is free, and it is your access to the largest source of financial aid for college. The information listed on the application will help to determine the amount of grants, Federal student loans, and some types of state aid that you may be eligible to receive.

To see an estimate of how much Federal student aid you may be eligible to receive, complete the FAFSA4caster.

A new FAFSA application becomes available in January of each year. You will have to complete the FAFSA every year to apply for Federal financial aid.

There are two ways to complete the FAFSA:

Several deadlines are associated with financial aid programs that use the FAFSA. Deadlines for financial aid programs include:

  • Federal financial aid: For the 2018-2019 year, you can complete the FAFSA between October 1, 2017 and June 30, 2019. For the 2017-18 year, you can complete the FAFSA between October 1, 2016 and June 30, 2018.
  • State student aid: You can find state deadlines at FAFSA/deadlines or on the paper FAFSA or PDF FAFSA.
  • College aid: Check the school’s website or contact the financial aid office. School deadlines are often in February or March.
  • Other financial aid: Some programs other than government or school aid require that you file the FAFSA. Check the deadline for the program you are interested in so you can complete the FAFSA on time.

The FSA ID

To complete the online FAFSA, you’ll need a Federal Student Aid ID (FSA ID), which is a user name and password combination that allows you to sign your FAFSA electronically. You can obtain your FSA ID prior to beginning the FAFSA or when you complete it. Getting an FSA ID before you begin completing the FAFSA may prevent processing delays. To find out how to get an FSA ID or what to do if you forget your FSA ID, click here.

Completing the FAFSA

To complete the FAFSA, you will need personal information as well as information about your financial situation. You will need your parents’ information if you are a dependent student.

Information required to complete the FAFSA includes:

  • Your Social Security number and your parents’ Social Security numbers if you are a dependent student
  • Your driver’s license number
  • Your Alien Registration number if you are not a U.S. citizen
  • Federal tax information or tax returns including IRS W-2 information for you; for your spouse, if you are married; and for your parents, if you are a dependent student. Information required can include:
    • IRS Form 1040, 1040A, or 1040EZ,
    • Foreign tax return, or
    • Tax return for Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, or Palau
  • Records of your untaxed income, such as child support received, interest income, and veterans’ noneducational benefits, for you and for your parents if you are a dependent student
  • Information on cash, savings and checking account balances, investments, and business and farm assets for you and for your parents if you are a dependent student
     

Be sure to keep any documents that you used to complete your FAFSA; you may need them again. Do not send any documents with your FAFSA. Remember, completing the FAFSA is free. Be sure to complete your FAFSA on the correct government site at fafsa.ed.gov.

If you are completing the FAFSA online, there are several “Help and Hints” located on each page as you complete the questions. There is also a “Frequently Asked Questions” section and a “Contact Us” section for help. The paper copy has detailed instructions for completing the FAFSA. Also, the financial aid office at your school should be able to provide helpful information.
 

Reducing the risk of identity theft

When applying for Federal financial aid, the following tips will help reduce the risk of identity theft:

  • Apply for aid by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) at the fafsa.ed.gov website.
  • When you exit the FAFSA website, close the browser so cookies from the session will be deleted automatically.
  • Don’t give anyone your FSA ID, even if that person is helping you complete the FAFSA.
  • Review your financial aid award letter and keep track of the amount of aid you applied for and received.

Never give personal information over the phone or Internet unless you are the one who made the contact. 

Dependency status

When completing the FAFSA, you will be asked a series of questions to determine if you are a dependent or independent student for purposes of applying for Federal financial aid. Federal financial aid programs are based on the concept that it is primarily your and your family’s responsibility to pay for your education. Because a dependent student is assumed to have the support of his or her parents, the parents’ information is assessed along with the student’s information.

  • If you are a dependent student, you will be required to report your and your parents’ information.
  • If you are an independent student, you will be required to report your own information (and your spouse’s, if you are married).

For additional information concerning dependency status, click here.

Providing parent information

If you are a dependent student for purposes of applying for Federal financial aid, you will need to report your legal parents’ information on your FAFSA. A legal parent is your biological or adoptive parent, or your parent as determined by the state (for example, if the parent is listed on your birth certificate). If you have a stepparent, you generally must provide information about him or her as well.

For additional information concerning providing parent information, click here

Providing financial information

If you are a dependent student when completing the FAFSA, you will be required to report your and your parents’ information. If you are an independent student, you will be required to report your own information (and your spouse’s, if you are married). Financial information required will include balances of savings and checking accounts and information from tax records. You will use the income records for the tax year prior to the academic year for which you are applying. For example, if you are completing the 2015-16 FAFSA, you will need 2014 tax information.

If you filed your taxes electronically at least two weeks prior to completing your FAFSA, or eight weeks prior if you filed paper taxes, you may be able to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (IRS DRT). The IRS DRT takes you to the IRS website, where you will be able to log in and provide your name and other requested information exactly as it is listed on your tax return. On the IRS site, you will be able to preview your information and then agree to have it transferred to your FAFSA. By using this tool, you will not be required to provide a copy of your tax records or actually enter your tax information on your FAFSA.

If you have not filed your taxes yet, you can estimate the amounts. You may want to base your estimate on the previous year’s tax return. If there was a major change in your income, you can use the “Income Estimator” on the online FAFSA to help estimate your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI). After you have filed your taxes, you will need to correct any estimated information on your FAFSA that was incorrect. 

Signing and submitting the FAFSA

Once you have completed your FAFSA, you will need to sign and submit it for processing. When using the online FAFSA, you will sign using your Federal Student Aid ID (FSA ID). Once you have submitted your FAFSA online, you will receive a confirmation page. Be sure to print or save your confirmation page prior to exiting the application. If you provided an email address, you will also receive an email confirmation; however, the email confirmation will not contain additional school information that is listed on your application confirmation page. 

Steps after the FAFSA is completed

After your FAFSA has been submitted, the information is sent to the colleges you listed on the application. The financial aid office at the schools you’ve selected will use the information to calculate how much Federal financial aid you may receive at that school. The information may be used to determine your eligibility for additional school aid. Your information is also sent to your state’s higher education agency, as well as to agencies for the state where your chosen school is located to help determine possible state aid

The next steps include: 

FAFSA processing

You can check the status of your FAFSA immediately after submitting it online. You can check the status of a paper FAFSA about 7 to 10 days after it has been mailed. To check the status of your FAFSA:

  • Login to your account at fafsa.ed.gov , or
  • Contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center (FSAIC) at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243)

Student Aid Report (SAR)

After your FAFSA has been processed, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) will send you a Student Aid Report (SAR), which is a summary of the FAFSA data you submitted. You should receive your SAR within three days to three weeks after you have submitted your FAFSA, depending on the method you used to complete it. You will receive your SAR online if you provided an email address on your FAFSA. If an email address was not provided, you will receive your SAR in paper form. Be sure that the information listed on the SAR is correct. If there are any mistakes, follow the instructions provided with your SAR to make corrections.

Possible verification

Once your application is completed, an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) will be calculated. The schools listed on your FAFSA will have access to the information listed on your SAR and will use this information to determine your eligibility for Federal, and possibly state, financial aid. There may be information on your SAR stating you have been selected for verification, or your school may contact you and tell you that you have been selected for verification. Verification is the process your school uses to confirm that the data reported on your FAFSA is accurate.