Through Federal Student Aid, the U.S. Dept. of Education helps make college education possible by providing more than $150 billion in federal grants, work‑study funds, and student loans each year to more than 13 million students.
FAFSA, or the Free Application for Federal Student Aid is your ticket to all student aid you may be eligible for.
And the only way to find out if you qualify for any aid is to complete and submit a FAFSA and it’s absolutely FREE.
Whether you’re enrolling in college for the first time or returning to school, you’re highly encouraged to file your FAFSA each year — even if you think you don’t qualify.
What is FAFSA
FAFSA application consists of 153 numbered and unnumbered questions all directed towards the students’ assets, income and dependency.1
The answers to these questions will eventually determine your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) — an estimate of how much you can afford out of your own pocket. Your school will subtract your EFC from your total cost of attendance. The result is your financial need.
In other words, the lesser your EFC is, the more financial aid you’ll be awarded!
For example, if your EFC is $8,000, and the college costs $15,000 to attend, you may be eligible for $7,000 worth of aid.
On the other hand, if college B costs $6,000, you may not be offered financial aid (from college B), since FAFSA indicates you can pay that much out of your own pocket.
Before You Apply
Complete your income tax return
You don’t have to file your income tax return before you fill out the FAFSA, but it’s a good idea to do so. If you’ve done so, you can automatically retrieve your income tax data from the IRS and have it transferred straight into your FAFSA.
Get your FSA ID
Create a FSA ID, made up of a unique username and password, at fsaid.ed.gov. Although it is not strictly required to complete your FAFSA, it is the fastest way to sign your application and have it processed electronically.
What Do I Need to Complete My FAFSA?
- Social Security Number
- If you are not a U.S. citizen, your Alien Registration Number (ANR)
- Driver’s license number and state of issuance (if any)
- Taxable income from W-2 forms or other records of money earned or received
- Federal Income Tax Return (IRS 1040, 1040A, or 1040EZ)
- Untaxed income, including workers’ compensation; child support; housing, food and other living allowances; or veterans benefits, etc.
- Current bank statement
- Current mortgage information (if applicable)
Here’s a checklist of documents you’ll need to get you started!
How Do I Submit my FAFSA?
To submit your FAFSA, you have three (3) options: online, PDF and paper.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Regardless, it’s almost always in your best interest to submit your FAFSA sooner rather than later as some aid is first come, first served.
What Happens Next?
After you completed your FAFSA, you will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) within 3 to 5 days with a reference to your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The same information is also sent to the school(s) you listed on your application.
Assuming all the information is correct, you’ll get a financial aid award letter from the college(s) to which you applied, typically in late March to early April. This letter spells out the details of your financial aid package.