Top 5 FAFSA FAQs for 2016–17

Have you completed the FAFSA? Don't wait!

Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) is the first step in accessing the more than $150 billion available in federal student aid. To help you get a head start on your FAFSA, below are the answers to the top 5 questions we’ve been getting on our Facebook and Twitter accounts:

1. What is an FSA ID and do I need one?

The FSA ID is a username and password you use to log in to your FAFSA. You should get an FSA ID before you start the FAFSA. If you are required to provide parent information on your FAFSA, one of your parents needs an FSA ID too. Keep in mind that parents should not be making an FSA ID for their child or vice versa.

2016-17 FAFSA Login with FSA ID

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Parents will use their FSA ID to sign a dependent child’s FAFSA. However, if they are unable to get an FSA ID, they can mail a signature page.

2016-17 FAFSA Parent Signature

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Go here to get an FSA ID now. The FSA ID does not define if you are a student or parent, the process of getting an FSA ID is the same for both.

2. How can I complete the FAFSA if my parents or I haven’t filed 2015 taxes yet?

When filling out the 2016–17 FAFSA, you’ll want to use financial information from the 2015 tax year. At this point in the year, many people haven’t received their Form W-2, let alone completed their 2015 taxes. But that shouldn’t stop you from submitting the FAFSA! If you or your parents have not completed your taxes yet, you can estimate your income and other tax return information, and then correct your application after you have filed your taxes.

If your 2015 income is similar to your 2014 income, use your 2014 tax return to provide estimates for questions about your income. If your income is not similar, use the Income Estimator for assistance estimating your adjusted gross income, and answer the remaining questions about your income to the best of your ability. If you do not know your parent’s tax information, we have a guide on how to complete the FAFSA if you and your parent are not together.

2016-17 FAFSA Will File Taxes

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Note: Once you complete your 2015 tax return, you’ll need to update your FAFSA. When you do so, you may be eligible to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to access the IRS tax return information needed to complete the FAFSA. This allows you to transfer data directly into your FAFSA from the IRS website.

 

3. When is the FAFSA deadline?

States, schools, and the federal government each have their own FAFSA filing deadlines. It is important that you research all of these deadlines and complete the FAFSA by your earliest deadline. That being said, because some types of aid are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, it is highly recommended that you fill out the FAFSA as soon as you can to ensure that you do not miss out on available aid.

Sample FAFSA Deadlines

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4. Do I have to complete the FAFSA every year?

Yes, you need to fill out the FAFSA each school year because your eligibility for financial aid can differ from year to year for various reasons, including your family’s financial situation and the number of your family members enrolled in college. If you filled out a FAFSA last year and want to renew it, go to fafsa.gov, click “Login”, and be sure to select “FAFSA Renewal” once given the option. That way, many of the (nonfinancial) questions will be pre-filled for you. Just be sure to update any information that has changed since last year.

2016-17- FAFSA Renewal

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5. Which FAFSA should I complete?

When you log into fafsa.gov, you will be given two different options: “Start a 2015–16 FAFSA” and “Start a 2016–17 FAFSA.” Which should you choose?

2016-17 Start FAFSA

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  • If you’ll be attending college between July 1, 2015 and June 30, 2016, select “Start a 2015–16 FAFSA.”
  • If you’ll be attending college between July 1, 2016 and June 30, 2017, select “Start a 2016–17 FAFSA.”

Remember, you must complete the FAFSA each school year, so if you’ll be attending college during both periods of time, you should fill out both applications.

TIP: If you need to fill out both applications, complete the 2015–16 FAFSA first. That way, when you complete the 2016–17 FAFSA, a lot of your info will automatically roll over.

If you are applying for a summer session, or just don’t know which application to complete, check with the college you are planning to attend.


We hope this answers some of your questions! If you have additional questions about the FAFSA, you leave us a comment below. We also have videos on our YouTube channel. For more information about completing the FAFSA, visit StudentAid.gov/fafsa.

Sandra Vuong is a Digital Engagement Strategist at Federal Student Aid.

 

32 Comments

  1. We submitted our Fafsa in February. Parents had not filed taxes and they will not be done until after March 10th. Is it ok to update the fafsa once the parents taxes are done and is there a deadline for that.

    • Yes. If you submitted earlier, that should hold your place in line. You can make corrections when you’re ready (though ASAP is always best!). Keep in mind that your college may have a date they want your updated tax info! Check with them to find out.

  2. John Boyland says:

    February 1, 2016 at 3:42 pm

    I am a parent. I filled out a FAFSA last month and signed it with my FSA ID and my son signed it with his FSA ID, Now I can’t log on to make corrections. When I log on; it asks for either the student FSA or for me to enter his SSN etc. The former is not allowed for parents. So I enter the student information, and press Next. This lets me on, but when I press “Make a correction” it puts me on a screen to enter FSA ID, and create a save key. There is a big banner on the left reading “Student”. I enter *my* FSA ID and password (which works fine when I use the FSA system) and a save key (why does it ask for a new for a correctIon?). Then it says

    The FSA ID you provided does not match the student information provided on the FAFSA. Click Forgot User Name if you have forgotten your FSA ID. You cannot correct your FAFSA.
    the FSA ID is not connected to the FAFSA.

    It seems to want the student FSA which I don’t have.

    Reply

    Sandra Vuong Sandra Vuong says:

    February 10, 2016 at 12:53 pm

    That is correct. The owner of the FAFSA is the student, not their parent. The parent’s role is to sign their child’s FAFSA. As the parent, you won’t be able to access the “Student” pages of the FAFSA. More about making corrections.

    And the owner of parents’ tax return is the parents. Every FAFSA submitted before the parents’ tax return is filed could require correction. Yet the parent is denied access to make those corrections?

  3. We’ve tried to sign the FAFSA electronically but are unable. It keeps prompting that the SSA’s info doesn’t match up. But all the numbers are right and there’s no reason it shouldn’t match up. Any advice? I’d rather file electronically…

    • Verify that your name and date of birth is typed correctly in both places: the FAFSA you’re trying to sign and your FSA ID profile. This includes any spaces and capitalization. Your name must be typed in exactly as it appears on your Social Security card.

      Verify that your Social Security number has been “Matched” with your FSA ID.

  4. My husband is finishing his undergrad and will complete in the summer term. He is going to go to grad school in the fall. I was told by the school to file one for now 2016-17 and file another in the fall. When I asked abiut filing more than one per school year, the fin aid person acted as though this was possible. I explained I didn’t want to ruin his ability to get grad loans in the fall and she wasn’t following what I was saying. His school recognizes the beginning of the 17 year as July 1, which would be during his summer term. What should he do (we would love to get Pell over the summer but is this possible to get different awards in one year)?

    • The 2016-17 FAFSA covers July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017, so yes, he should complete a FAFSA now. You file one FAFSA and that covers the entire academic year. You cannot file more than one 2016-17 FAFSA. The FAFSA is connected to your personal info (including Social Security number) so filing more than one is not possible. You should add all the schools you want to send your FAFSA info to (both undergrad and grad). Unfortunately, we do not have a simple answer for this situation. Our official answer is:

      “If you expect to begin a master’s or doctorate program sometime during the 2016-2017 school year, you should contact your college’s financial aid office for assistance with answering this question.”

      Keep in mind that most graduate students cannot receive the Pell Grant.

  5. My husband and I haven’t filled our 2014 income tax yet and have had some various things happen to change our income in the last 1 1/2- We both have had parents die in 2014, sold a house in 2015 etc. Just wondering how any income from these type situations will affect the fafsa. The 2014 income tax is almost ready and 2015 may be a few more months before we can file. What should we expect or will all info from these exceptions still be included (all though they are out of the ordinary incomes)

  6. I am a parent. I filled out a FAFSA last month and signed it with my FSA ID and my son signed it with his FSA ID, Now I can’t log on to make corrections. When I log on; it asks for either the student FSA or for me to enter his SSN etc. The former is not allowed for parents. So I enter the student information, and press Next. This lets me on, but when I press “Make a correction” it puts me on a screen to enter FSA ID, and create a save key. There is a big banner on the left reading “Student”. I enter *my* FSA ID and password (which works fine when I use the FSA system) and a save key (why does it ask for a new for a correctIon?). Then it says

    The FSA ID you provided does not match the student information provided on the FAFSA. Click Forgot User Name if you have forgotten your FSA ID. You cannot correct your FAFSA.
    the FSA ID is not connected to the FAFSA.

    It seems to want the student FSA which I don’t have.

      • And the owner of parents’ tax return is the parents. Every FAFSA submitted before the parents’ tax return is filed could require correction. Yet the parent is denied access to make those corrections?

  7. If you are having an issue with your FAFSA® you can contact 1-800-433-3243 that is the Federal student aid information center and they can assist you with the application an many other things.

  8. IF YOU HAD BEEN COMPLETING FAFSA IN THE PREVIOUS YEARS FOR AN OLDER DAUGHTER
    CAN THE INFORMATION BE FORWARD TO THE YOUNGER DAUGHTER NEW
    FAFSA

    • Yes. Renew the older daughter’s FAFSA first. The FAFSA has a feature that allows the student to transfer their parent’s information into a sibling’s FAFSA. This option will appear on the confirmation page, and the transfer will only work if the sibling has NOT started a new FAFSA yet. When the student gets to the final step, they have the option of transferring information to a brand new FAFSA (your other child’s). Both FAFSAs must be for the same award year (for example, both children are filing a 2016-17 FAFSA.) View this screenshot.

  9. My son was deemed “not eligible for a PELL Grant.” We don’t understand why this happened.I am a single parent and a school teacher. Also, we were concerned about being asked about child support contributions from my son’s father. We reported them on the FAFSA, but as of May 2016, we will no longer receive child support because my son will be 18 years old. Unfortunately, the child support is being garnished from my son’s father. He will not contribute anything past his obligation of child support to help my son attend college. My son is ranked first in his class and has worked extremely hard to reach this goal. We are very concerned that we are being told that he does not qualify for a PELL Grant. Please help!

  10. We filled out the 2015 fafsa and were awarded sone money but my son withdrew from 1 school in fall before starting in 2015 .He started at a different school in the spring of 2016 .Of course we did a new fafsa in 2016. What happens to his 2015 unused award? Can it be carried over or does it just go away?

  11. Our income has not changed much but our untaxed portion has.my husband now receives his retirement as he was medically retired from his job. Last year our daughter received aid this year she hasn’t. Could that have effected her aid?

    • We can’t say, your aid package is determined by the school/college and that may change every year. There are many factors that go into determining the types and amount of aid you get. Your eligibility depends on your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), your year in school, your enrollment status, and the cost of attendance at the school you will be attending. The financial aid office at your college will determine how much financial aid you are eligible to receive.

  12. Hi Sandra, I am a college adviser trying to help my students submit their FAFSAs. I have one student who has approached me with an interesting situation and I want to make sure I’m providing accurate advise. This student lives with her mom and sister, but the student’s aunt claims the student on her taxes. The student’s mother does work as a house cleaner but does not file her taxes. I know that “dependent” does not always mean the same thing on the FAFSA as it does with taxes, but I’m a little confused on how this student should go about reporting parent financial info! Thanks for your help!

    • Hi Daniel. No worries, we get the question about reporting parent info a lot. We have an entire blog post and infographic dedicated to it. The student will report her biological parent’s financial information, regardless of who claims her on taxes. The only way she can report her aunt’s info is if she legally adopted her. It doesn’t matter if she doesn’t live with her parents. It’s OK if the mom did not file taxes, there’s an option that lets her select “Will not file.” If the mom is married, divorced, separated, or remarried is another factor in determining if she needs to report her other parent’s info.

  13. I read on line that if a family member receives ssi benefits and lives in the household that it is an automatic 0 on the family contribution, but there was no where on the FAFSA that asked that question. It did however ask if a parent received it. How can I find out if this is true?

    • That is not true. There will be a question that asks “What was the total of your other untaxed income or benefits?” You do NOT include your untaxed Social Security benefits for this question.

      There will be another question that specifically asks about Supplemental Security Income (SSI), this is where you report it.

      There is an income threshold for an automatic zero EFC. For the 2016-17 award year, it’s $25,000 or less for the parents of dependent students and for independent students and their spouses. Here is the entire EFC formula. Keep in mind that having a zero EFC does not guarantee more or less aid than someone else. There are many factors that go into aid calculation: EFC, year in school, enrollment status, and the cost of attendance at the school. The financial aid office at the college will determine how much financial aid your children are eligible to receive.

      • Just wondering why you are advising to report untaxed social security income under the question asking for Supplemental Security Income. Social Security benefits are completely different then Supplemental Security Benefits.

  14. I am filling the fafsa out but does anyone know of anything for 2016·2017 as far as assistance for school for a 24 year old mom of four? I received my diploma at 16 graduating early.

  15. My daughter was denied any aid don’t know why, should we reapply maybe something wasn’t correct?

    • What do you mean she was “denied”? Do you mean she wasn’t offered any Federal Pell Grant? The Pell Grant is just one type of aid. We offer other types such as work-study and student loans. Was she offered unsubsidized loans? Most students are eligible for that type of aid regardless of EFC. You may think that a loan is not considered “financial aid,” but it is. If she gets accepted into one or more schools, the school will calculate her aid and will send her an award letter. This letter will tell her how much aid she’s eligible for at the school.

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