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, require the FAFSA. The FAFSA must be submitted every year to obtain financial aid for college.
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 known as FAFSA on the Web. A comprehensive resource to help students get started and best prepare for filling out the form is Fastweb’s FAFSA Checklist. Review all the requirements in advance in order to provide the necessary information for the submission. When students are ready to begin, the initial step is to create their FSA ID and follow all instructions.
FAFSA Filing Options
Online Filing Benefits:
– Get Student Aid Report (SAR) sooner than with the paper or PDF forms. FAFSA on the Web has built-in edit checks to catch simple errors and you avoid errors introduced by the OCR process.
– 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.
Paper/PDF Filing Option:
– 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.
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. The FAFSA now permits the use of prior-prior tax year (PPY) tax information which allows for students and their families to fill out the FAFSA form as soon as it’s open. It’s important to keep in mind that to meet the deadlines for most states you should submit the form no later than March 1st, with February 15th being ideal.
Some states want more students to fill out the FAFSA to qualify for aid and are making completing the FAFSA mandatory in order to graduate from high school. Check for your State deadline: Find my State’s FAFSA deadline. Do not wait until income tax returns are filed with the IRS. You should either estimate your income – you’ll have a chance to correct errors later – or complete your tax returns early.
FAFSA resources and tools for students, parents and educators
Financial Aid Guides
- Step by Step Guide to the Federal Financial Aid Process – Department of Education presentation
- Student Aid Reference Desk – Direct links to important financial aid regulations, legislation, research, and other key resources.
- Knowledge Center (formerly IFAP) – Library of information articles and resources for various federal student aid topics.
- Spanish resources from the Federal Student Aid office (Vea y descargue recursos de la oficina de Ayuda Federal para Estudiantes)
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.
Current FAFSA News
- FSA Announces Date Range, Road Map for 2024-25 FAFSA Launch
- What is the FAFSA? And Why You Should Care
- Assessing Financial Need & FAFSA EFC Changes Compiled by NSPA
For Financial Aid Administrators: 2023-2024 Changes to the FAFSA
The Summary of Changes for the Application Processing System is designed to meet the
reference needs of financial aid administrators (FAA), National College Attainment Network
(NCAN), Federal TRIO program staff, guidance counselors, programmers, and data processing
staff. In this guide, we describe updates and enhancements to the 2023-2024 application
processing system and to student and school Web products. See report: Summary of Changes for the Application Processing System – 2023-24