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 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. Students can started on the right track with Fastweb’s FAFSA Checklist to help prepare for filling out the FAFSA.
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.
Helpful Financial Aid Tools:
- 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.
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.
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.
For Financial Aid Administrators: 2021-2022 Changes to the FAFSA
The Department of Education released the new Summary of Changes for the Application Processing System is designed to meet the reference needs of financial aid administrators (FAAs), National College Attainment Network (NCAN), Federal TRIO program staff, guidance counselors, programmers, and data processing staff. The guide describes updates and enhancements to the 2021-2022 application processing system. See report: Summary of Changes for Application Processing System, 2021-2022