The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) must be completed to apply for federal and state financial aid. Many colleges and universities, especially public institutions, also require the FAFSA. The FAFSA must be submitted every year to obtain financial aid.
Obtaining a FAFSA
The FAFSA is available in several formats, including online, PDF and paper versions. The best option is to complete the web-based version of the FAFSA at www.fafsa.ed.gov, known as FAFSA on the Web. It includes step-by-step instructions for completing the online FAFSA as well as pre-application worksheets. Obtain a FSA ID at https://fsaid.ed.gov/npas/index.htm.
All eligible students should fill out the form to create a FSA ID and follow all instructions. FAFSA on the Web benefits:
– Get 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 and you avoid errors introduced by the OCR process.
– Save the federal government money by reducing their processing costs. The online FAFSA allows you to list up to ten colleges, while the paper FAFSA has space only for four colleges.
– Use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to pre-fill the answers to some questions on the FAFSA by transferring data from your federal income tax returns. This will save time and may reduce the likelihood that your FAFSA will be selected for verification.
– Obtain the PDF format FAFSA in both English and Spanish. Students may also obtain up to three paper copies by calling 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3242) or 1-391-337-5665. (Hearing impaired individuals should call the TTY number 1-800-730-8913.) Paper FAFSAs can be ordered.
Finaid’s Financial Aid Estimation Form may be used to calculate your EFC and an estimate of your eligibility for financial aid. This may help you understand a bit about how the federal need analysis system works. Finaid’s EFC calculator, the US Department of Education’s FAFSA4CASTER tool also provides an early estimate of financial aid eligibility.
The FAFSA submission period opens on October 1st each year. Financial aid applications, such as the FAFSA, should be submitted as soon as possible after the date they open each year. You cannot submit the form before this deadline because the need analysis process uses your financial information from the prior tax year when calculating eligibility for the upcoming award year. To meet the deadlines for most states you should submit the form no later than March 1st, with February 15th being ideal. Do not wait until you’ve filed your income tax returns with the IRS. You should either estimate your income – you’ll have a chance to correct errors later – or complete your tax returns early.