One of the first steps in securing financial aid for a college education is filling out the FAFSA form. FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. It is the form used by the U.S. Department of Education to determine the Expected Family Contribution—or how much your family is expected to pay toward college tuition and expenses. Nearly all colleges and universities use the FAFSA application during the financial aid process to determine eligibility for federal, state, and college sponsored financial aid including grants, student loans and work-study programs.
Now that you understand what the FAFSA is and its importance in the financial aid process, you’ll want to know the correct way of filling it out. Filling out the FAFSA form does not need to be overwhelming or confusing. Use these tips for filling out the FAFSA to make the process smooth and headache free.
1. Set up an FSA ID
An FSA ID is your Federal Student Aid Identification. You will need to set up a username and password that will give you access to US Department of Education websites. Your FSA ID identifies you as someone who can view personal information on ED websites including the FAFSA.
2. Gather Documents
There are various documents needed for properly filling out the FAFSA application. Have all of these documents on hand before sitting down to fill out the application:
- Your Social Security Number
- Your parent’s Social Security numbers (if you are a dependent student)
- Your driver’s license number (if you have one)
- Your Alien Registration number (if you are not a US citizen)
- Federal tax information or tax returns for the past two years. You’ll need your parent’s and your own if you are a dependent student, or your spouse’s if you are married.
- Records of any untaxed income including: child support, alimony, interest income and veterans non-education benefits.
- Information on your current assets including checking and savings accounts, stocks and bonds, real estate ( not including the home you live in.)
You will need to gather this information for both you and your parents if you are a dependent student, or for you and your spouse, if you are married. If you are single and cannot be claimed as a dependent your will only need your information for each item listed above.
3. Fill out the FAFSA application
The next step is to actually fill out the FAFSA application. You will do this by going to www.fafsa.gov and click on ‘Start a New FAFSA’.
Here are the following steps you will take:
- Fill in your personal information including your name, social security number and other identifying details.
- You will list colleges and schools to receive information from your FAFSA form. You can list up to 10 schools if you have not decided which institution you’d like to attend yet.
- You will have to determine your dependency status, whether you are a dependent or independent student.
- If you are a dependent student you will report your parents’
- You will enter in all of your financial information.
- You will sign and submit your FAFSA form.
Overall, filling out the FAFSA can be a streamlined process. As long as you prepare yourself beforehand, you should have no issues filling out the application. Collect the appropriate documentation and have the list of schools you want to send your FAFSA to before starting the application.
Beginning in the fall of 2016, students who fill out the 2017-18 FAFSA will be able to submit their application as early as Oct. 1, 2016. See our FAFSA guide.