FAFSA - Pointers for Students & Parents
The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is a comprehensive form. Students and their family should be prepared to provide extensive information about family income and income taxes from the previous year; assets, family size, the number of family members attending college, and more.
For students planning to attend college this fall, the FAFSA is their starting point to apply for many student financial aid programs. Many schools also use the FAFSA as part of their application process for non-federal aid.
By law, the FAFSA cannot be submitted before October 1. However, it's a good idea to stress the importance to gather the paperwork and fill out the FAFSA in September. That way, when October 1 rolls around, students are ready to submit the application.
It is important to note that student aid is generally awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. So the more time that passes after the October 2 start date, the higher the risk of missing out on available funding.
It's an annual event
Submitting the FAFSA is an annual process. Every year they are in college, they'll need to submit the FAFSA. There's good news, in most cases, students can submit a Renewal FAFSA. Students who receive the Renewal FAFSA will find the previous year's information preprinted on the form. They are only required to provide new financial data and non-financial information.
Overview of the Application Process
- Students and their family complete the FAFSA and submit to US Department of Education (ED).
- ED sends the family a Student Aid Report (SAR). The SAR includes the official Expected Family Contribution (EFC) which is calculated based on the information provided on the FAFSA.
- ED sends the same information to the schools students listed on the FAFSA. This report is known as the Institutional Student Information Record (ISIR).
- Schools use the EFC to assemble a financial aid award package which is sent to the student.
Ways to Apply
To maximize a student's chances of receiving financial aid, the FAFSA should be submitted as soon as possible after October 1.
There is no charge to submit the FAFSA. The application may be submitted via the Internet (using FAFSA on the Web) or using the paper version.
FAFSA on the Web
To fill out the FAFSA online, visit www.fafsa.ed.gov. Students interested in signing their FAFSA electronically will be prompted to request a PIN. Students should keep their PIN a secret in order to protect the privacy of the information they provide.
Some of the benefits to filing the FAFSA electronically:
- On-line help is available for each question.
- Edits are built in to notify students of potential errors before the application is processed.Electronic filing is faster than submitting the paper version.
- Calculations are performed automatically.
- Software encryption is enabled to protect personal information.
FAFSA on the Web Worksheet
Students planning to complete their FAFSA online should download the FAFSA on the Web Worksheet (pdf). It contains the application questions in the same order as the Web version. Many find this worksheet helpful to:
- Learn what types of questions are asked.
- Get familiar with the requested information and documents.
- Saves time. When students are ready to submit the FAFSA online, all the required information is ready to be keyed in.
The FAFSA is still available in a paper format for students and families who don't have access to a computer or feel uncomfortable submitting their personal information via the Internet. Funding amounts students will be offered are the same whether they submit the FAFSA online or on paper. However, processing time can increase by two weeks.
To request copies of the paper FAFSA (English or Spanish available) contact:
Federal Student Aid Information Center (FSAIC)
PO Box 84
Washington, DC 20044