Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, is one of the most important steps students and their families can take to pay for college. Even if you think you have enough money to pay for college, you should fill out the FAFSA to avoid missing out on grants and scholarships. For the 2023-2024 school year, the FAFSA filing season opens October 1st – and the sooner your file, the better. In this article, we will go over how to fill out the FAFSA.
Whether you are a student filling out a FAFSA, or a parent of a student, the steps below will help you fill out the FAFSA the right way and qualify for maximum benefits. Remember, you must complete a FAFSA form for each school year.
Step 1: Create Your FSA ID
This can be done at https://studentaid.gov/fsa-id/create-account/launch. You will create a username and password combination that allows you to sign your FAFSA form electronically. You will want to create an FSA ID for both the student and a parent. Be careful not to mix up parent and student FDA IDs, otherwise it can delay the process.
Step 2: Start the FAFSA form
This can be done at fafsa.gov. Since most states and schools have limited funds for financial aid, you should get a head start and complete your FAFSA form as soon as possible. It is easiest to fill out the FAFSA when both student and parent are in the same room as you will need information from each. Or you can create a “save key” that allows the parent and child to pass the FAFSA form back and forth online.
Step 3: Fill Out the Student Demographics Section
Enter the student’s name exactly as it appears on their social security card. This section is straightforward. Just remember if you are a parent entering information, these questions are for the student. When the FAFSA form says “you” or “your,” it’s referring to the student (unless otherwise noted).
Step 4: Select the Schools to Receive Your FAFSA Information
Add every school you are considering in the “School Selection” section. You can add up to 10 schools at a time. You can also remove schools at any time to make room for new schools. The schools you list will use your FAFSA information to determine the type and amounts of aid available to you.
Step 5: Answer the Dependency Status Question
In this section, you will be asked a series of questions to determine whether you are considered a dependent student. If you are, you will have to report parent information. Otherwise, you will skip to step 7.
Step 6: Fill Out the Parental Demographics Section
Again, this is straightforward information about the parents.
Step 7: Supply the Required Financial Information
The FAFSA form asks for financial information, including information from tax forms and values of assets. The IRS allows you to import your tax information into the FAFSA form with just a few clicks. It is highly encouraged to use this tool to save time and effort. The form will give guidance on what assets need to be reported.
Step 8: Sign and Submit your FAFSA Form
Once completed, you can sign your FAFSA form online with your FSA ID. If you are a dependent student, your parent must sign the form with their FSA ID as well. One tip, make sure you don’t mix up your parent and student FSA IDs. This is one of the most common errors we see.
And that’s it! Now you are one step closer to getting money for college. The whole process should take under an hour. Renewing the FAFSA each year going forward should take about half an hour to complete.