How to Complete the FAFSA

The FAFSA for the 2021-2022 academic year is available beginning on October 1st! Filling out the FAFSA is free and necessary in order for you and your family to receive financial aid from the federal government to help pay for college. All qualified students should fill out the FAFSA, regardless of grades or family income as there is no income cut-off to qualify and most aid is not dependent on grades.

Who is qualified for the FAFSA?

All U.S. citizens and eligible non-citizens are qualified. Eligible non-citizens include U.S. Nationals, U.S. Permanent Residents, or an individual who has an Arrival-Departure Record (I-94) from USCIS showing one of a list of specific designations. You must also have a valid SSN and be signed up for Selective Service if you’re a male between ages 18-25.

What do you need to complete the FAFSA?

  • Social Security Number (SSN):  yours, and your parents’ SSN if you are a dependent OR Alien Registration Number if you are not a U.S. citizen.
  • Driver’s License Number (if you have one)
  • Tax documents: again, yours and your parents’. The most common tax documents you will be needing include W-2’s and 1040’s.
  • Personal Finance Information: make sure to gather records of untaxed incomes, cash, savings, checking account balances, and investments.
  • FSA ID: This is the username and identifier you will use to sign into your FAFSA application, access the myStudentAid app, and sign loan contracts. You will use the same ID every year when reapplying for financial aid. You can get your FSA ID before filling out the FAFSA, which can make the process easier. Also, if you are a dependent, your parents will need a FSA ID as well.

How do you fill it out?

Once October 1st hits and you have all of your necessary information gathered, it’s go time! There are a few options for submitting the FAFSA, the most common being electronically through their website. You can also submit via the myStudentAid mobile app, download the PDF version or request a printed PDF and mail-in the application, or electronically submit through the college you will be attending (varies by school).

The earlier you complete the FAFSA, the better. Be sure to check the deadlines for your state and school. Also, be sure to understand how each school is defining “deadline”- for some schools this is the date the FAFSA form is processed, while for other schools it is the date the school receives your processed FAFSA form.

The IRS Data Retrieval Tool (IRS DRT) is useful for automating the transfer of your tax return information to the FAFSA form. Look out for the “Link to IRS” button in the finances section of the online FAFSA form. You will then use your FSA ID to log in and be sent to the IRS site, at which point you will enter and submit the information from your tax return and then transfer it to your FAFSA form with the check of a box and click of a button!

What happens after you submit?

After submitting the FAFSA form, you will receive an email notifying you the application has been processed, usually within a few days. Your information will be sent to the colleges you listed on the form, and you may hear back from them with a request for additional information.

First-time applicants will receive an aid offer from each college applied to and listed on the form, usually around early-mid April, at which point you should compare the amount and type of aid received from the different schools.

Filling out the FAFSA is the most important thing students can do to receive aid for college. It can be a confusing and overwhelming process, but we are here to help! Contact us with any specific questions or feedback, and sign up for our newsletter– it’s all free! And check out our Instagram for more useful information and tips on finding an affordable college.

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