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August 16, 2023

What You Need to Know About the FAFSA

What You Need to Know About the FAFSA
What You Need to Know About the FAFSA

Applying for financial aid as a student can be confusing but is here to help. There are many ways to pay for school from personal funding, student loans, grants, and scholarships. The first step in your financial aid process is filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). In this article, you will learn what the FAFSA is and what you need to do to get started with federal student aid.

What is FAFSA?

FAFSA is an application used by most two and four-year colleges, universities, and career schools for awarding Federal, state, and college-funded student aid. Completing and submitting the FAFSA is free, and it gives you access to the largest source of financial aid to pay for college or career school.

Most states and colleges use your FAFSA information to decide your eligibility for state and school aid. Some private financial aid providers may use your FAFSA information to decide whether you qualify for their aid as well.

When Should I Apply?

You should submit your application as soon as the FAFSA begins accepting applications for your planned school year. The opening date changes each year but it’s typically in the early fall. Be sure to watch for FAFSA announcements either on their website or social media accounts to know when you can begin your application.

You should apply as early as possible to have a chance at the most financial aid. Some scholarships are on a first come, first serve basis and financial aid opportunities can run out. Check out the FAFSA deadlines page to view deadlines for federal and state aid. Your school will also have different deadlines, so be sure to check with them as well.

What Do I Need to Apply?

Much of the FAFSA application centers around you and your family’s financial situation. If you are under the age of 18 or your parents are paying for your schooling, you will need mostly their information.

Here are the kinds of documents you will need to get started:

  • Your Social Security number
  • 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, tax documents, 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:
    • IRS Form 1040
    • Foreign tax return or IRS Form 1040-NR
    • Tax return for Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, or Palau
  • Records of your untaxed income, like child support received, interest income, and Veterans noneducation benefits, for you, and for your parents if you are a dependent student.
  • Information on cash; savings and checking account balances; investments, including stocks, bonds and real estate (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. 

How Do I Apply?

The FAFSA is online and can be filled out through There are several steps to filling out the FAFSA. Make sure you are ready before you get started and review all FAFSA guides and videos. You will need to create an account, fill out basic personal information, list which schools you are applying to, decide your dependency status, and report your parent’s financial information. 

Learn More

For more information on other benefits and resources for students and to find out what you might be eligible for, check out the Education and Training Category and the Benefit Finder.

The Benefit Finder can take between 10-30 minutes to finish, and all answers are kept confidential. Once you have completed the questionnaire, you will receive a list of government benefits you may be eligible for and where you can apply.

Check out this video to learn more about the Benefit Finder.

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