How to fill out the all-important FAFSA application

The FAFSA questions ask for information about you and about your financial situation.

U.S. Department of Education

Published on May 10, 2018 1:01PM


The Free Application for Federal Student Aid may seem intimidating, but it’s the only way students and their parents can figure out how much aid they can receive from Uncle Sam.

Of course, other scholarships are also available but federal aid is often the mainstay of a student’s financial aid package.

Filling out the FAFSA form can be a straightforward and easy process. The fafsa.gov site will guide you through the application; click on the “Start a New FAFSA” button on the home page, and just follow the directions on the screen. Below are some tips to help you along the way.

We strongly recommend you create an FSA ID, a username and password combination that allows you to sign your FAFSA form electronically. Your FSA ID also can be used to sign loan contracts and to access certain information online. While you can get your FSA ID as you’re completing the FAFSA form, getting it ahead of time and using it to begin your FAFSA form on fafsa.gov cuts down on errors and delays. Find out how to get an FSA ID and what to do if you forgot your FSA ID.

Important note: If you’re a dependent student, one of your parents whose information is reported on the FAFSA form will also need an FSA ID so that he or she can sign your application electronically.

Tip: Use your FSA ID to start your FAFSA form.

When you create your FSA ID, be careful to enter your name and Social Security number exactly as they appear on your Social Security card. Then, when you go to fafsa.gov to start your application, you will be given the option to “Enter your (the student’s) FSA ID” or to “Enter the student’s information.”

If you log in with your FSA ID, certain information (including your name, Social Security number, and date of birth) will be automatically loaded into your application. This will prevent you from running into a common error that occurs when your verified FSA ID information doesn’t match the information on your FAFSA form. Additionally, you won’t have to provide your FSA ID again to sign your FAFSA form electronically or to use the Internal Revenue Service Data Retrieval Tool if you’re eligible.

The student is the one applying for financial aid, so be sure it’s the student entering his or her FSA ID where it says “Enter your (the student’s) FSA ID.” Do not start the FAFSA form by supplying the parent’s FSA ID.

Gathering the documents needed to apply

The FAFSA questions ask for information about you (your name, date of birth, address, etc.) and about your financial situation. Depending on your circumstances (for instance, whether you’re a U.S. citizen or what tax form you used), you might need the following information or documents as you fill out the application:

• Your Social Security number (it’s important that you enter it correctly on the FAFSA form).

• Your parents’ Social Security numbers if you are a dependent student.

• Your driver’s license number if you have one.

• Your Alien Registration number if you are not a U.S. citizen.

• Federal tax information or tax returns including IRS W-2 information, for you (and your spouse, if you are married), and for your parents if you are a dependent student.

• Records of your untaxed income, such as child support received, interest income, and veterans non-education benefits, for you, and for your parents if you are a dependent student.

• Information on cash; savings and checking account balances; investments, including stocks and bonds and real estate (but not including the home in which you live); and business and farm assets for you, and for your parents if you are a dependent student.

Keep these records. You may need them again.



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