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FAFSA

How to Apply for the FAFSA®

5 min readaugust 24, 2021

iqra

Iqra H


Application Process for FAFSA®

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, better known as FAFSA®, opens on October 1st of every year. With over 100 questions, the FAFSA can quickly get confusing. But don’t worry, we got you. This guide will take you through everything you need to know to fill the FAFSA® form. Make sure to include the FAFSA in your college application checklist!

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Step 1: Gather Your Documents 📄

Before you even click on the website, make sure you have all the necessary documents needed to fill out the FAFSA®. These documents include your social security number, your alien registration number (if you are not a US citizen), driver’s license if applicable, federal income tax returns, bank account statements, and records of investments or records of untaxed income if applicable. For a more complete list and other resources check out this guide with everything you need to know about FAFSA®.

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Step 2: Set Up Your FSA ID 🆔

Next, head over to the FAFSA website and follow the instructions to create an FSA ID. This step requires your social security number and a personal email address or phone number. If you are a dependent student, your parent/guardian will also need to create an FSA ID. This is an important step to make sure you have your FAFSA® login and can access your form.
Tip: Your FSA ID is uniquely yours and should not be shared with anyone else! 

Step 3: Start the FAFSA Form 📌

Now that you have an FSA ID, head over to the FAFSA application and press “start here.” The FAFSA form asks more than 100 questions about student demographics, school selection, dependency status, parent demographics, and financial information. It should only take about an hour, but can take longer during the first time.
Tip: You must complete the FAFSA every year to be considered for federal aid. The good news is that you can take advantage of the renewal option if you’ve filled out the FAFSA before! Doing so will pre-populate some of the demographic data and cut down on the time and effort required to fill out the form.
Tip: The save key is like a temporary password that will allow you to save the FAFSA and return to it later. You can share this information with your parent/guardian unlike the FSA ID. 

Student Demographics:

The FAFSA will ask for your basic information, including birth date, name, address, current school name, and age.
Tip: Your personal information must match what is on your social security card. 

School Selection:

You will need to submit a FAFSA form to every school you are interested in. The form allows you to add up to 10 schools, even if you haven’t applied or haven’t been accepted. Some states require schools to be listed in a specific order. Check out the FAFSA website to see if your state has any particular rules about this. 
If you haven't completed your college list no worries, but check out this guide on how to create a college list for additional help.
Tip: You can always swap or remove schools from your list to make space for more!

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Dependency Status:

Through a series of questions, FAFSA will determine whether you are a dependent student or an independent student which is important for the rest of the form.

Parent Demographics:

If you are a dependent student, you will need to provide basic information about your parents/guardians, even if you do not live with them.
Tip: This infographic will help you determine whose information you need to provide depending on your circumstance. 

Step 4: Provide Financial Information 💵

In this step, the FAFSA will ask for your financial information, including any bank balances, records of assets, investments, untaxed income, and reports from tax returns. If eligible, use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) to directly transfer tax data to the FAFSA form. This will heavily cut down on the amount of paperwork and the time needed to fill out this section! If you’re not eligible, all records will have to be entered manually. 
Check out this financial need calculator and everything you need to know about financial aid for more info. In addition, make sure to look at this financial checklist to help with requirements and applications.
Tip: If filling out manually, make sure this section is 100% accurate. Not only can errors delay processing, but you may be subject to a fine if you misreport income or assets. 😨

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Step 5: Review, Sign, and Submit the FAFSA ✔️

Before you submit, you will have the opportunity to double-check all of your information. If everything looks correct, you (and a parent if you’re a dependent student) will need to sign the FAFSA. You can do this online with your FSA ID, or you can sign on paper and mail it in. 
And that’s it! You are officially done with the FAFSA… for this year. Once it has been submitted, you should receive an email with a link to your Student Aid Report (SAR) detailing what financial aid you’re eligible for within the week. You may also receive other updates, so make sure to check your email frequently! 
FAFSA® is an important aspect of the college process, the deadline for the 2021-22 year is June 30th. But make sure to check state and college guidelines just incase!
Tip: Read the comment section of the SAR to make sure your FAFSA was processed successfully 
Tip: Fill out and submit the FAFSA as soon as possible! Financial aid is offered on a first-come, first-serve basis. Make sure to also double-check deadlines because different states and schools may have separate filing periods. 
Tip: If you notice any mistakes after submitting the FAFSA, you will need to wait until it has been processed before you can successfully edit it.
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