The FAFSA is a lengthy form, and can be a daunting one — especially for those who are applying for financial aid for the first time.
Be prepared for the hassle but don’t let it deter you from submitting your FAFSA and getting the aid for which you qualify.
Before you begin, make sure you’ve done the necessary prep work – that you’ve created an FSA ID and assembled all your tax documents and other paperwork.
To submit your FAFSA, you have three (3) options: online, PDF and paper.
1. FAFSA Online
The quickest and most convenient way is by doing it online @ www.FAFSA.gov. It is available in both English & Spanish. To help you through the process, step-by-step instructions are provided throughout the online application process.
2. PDF FAFSA
PDF is also available for you to print and fill out manually or is screen-fillable. Remember, you must sign, date, and mail the form to the address provided for processing.
3. Paper FAFSA
If you don’t have Internet access, you can request a paper FAFSA by calling the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243) or 1-319-337-5665.
The best option is to complete the online version of the FAFSA at www.fafsa.ed.gov, known as FAFSA on the Web. It is available in both English & Spanish.
To help you through the process, step-by-step instructions are provided throughout the online application process, so you won’t get bogged down by the form’s confusing financial jargon.
FAFSA on the Web offers several benefits
- Filing the FAFSA online can help reduce processing time by one to two weeks.
- You will get your Student Aid Report (SAR) sooner than with the paper or PDF forms.
- Your FAFSA will be more accurate, since the FAFSA on the Web has built-in edit checks to catch simple errors.
- Automatic retrieval of your tax information straight from IRS.gov to the FAFSA application using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.
- FAFSA on the Web allows you to list up to ten colleges, while the paper FAFSA has space only for four colleges.
Is there a Deadline?
October 1 is the earliest day you can submit your FAFSA. The official deadline is June 30 but may differ from state to state. In general, you should complete it no later than June 30 or file no later than April 1 in order to meet the “priority” deadline.
Anyhow it’s almost always in your best interest to submit your FAFSA sooner rather than later as some aid is first come, first served.
If help is needed, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) cosponsors College Goal Sunday that provides free, on-site professional help completing the FAFSA at workshops held at locations throughout the nation.