6 Steps to Filling Out the FAFSA

Don’t go at filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) alone. We’re here to help. You’ve already done the hard part and gathered all of the necessary information, so now it’s time to complete the FAFSA. Let us walk you through it step by step:

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  1. Go to www.fafsa.gov. One thing you don’t need in order to fill out the FAFSA? Money! Remember, the FAFSA is FREE when you use the official .gov site: www.fafsa.gov.
  2. Choose which FAFSA you’d like to complete. The new FAFSA that becomes available on January 1, 2014, is the 2014–15 FAFSA. You should complete the 2014-15 FAFSA if you will be attending college between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2015. Remember, the FAFSA is not a one-time thing. You must complete or renew your FAFSA each school year.
    Note: The 2013–2014 FAFSA is also available if you will be attending college between July 1, 2013 and June 30, 2014, and you haven’t applied for financial aid yet.
  3. Enter your personal information.* This is information like your name, date of birth, etc. If you have completed the FAFSA in the past, a lot of your personal info will be pre-populated to save you time. Make sure you enter your personal information exactly as it appears on official government documents. (That’s right, no nicknames.)
  4. Enter your financial information.* All of it. You should use income records for the tax year prior to the academic year for which you are applying. For example, if you are filling out the 2014–15 FAFSA, you will need to use 2013 tax information. If you or your parent(s) haven’t filed your 2013 taxes yet, you can always estimate the amounts using your 2012 tax return; just make sure to update your FAFSA once you file your 2013 taxes. If you have filed your taxes already, you may be able to automatically import your tax information into the FAFSA using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. It makes completing the FAFSA super easy!
  5. Choose up to 10 schools in which you wish to apply, and we will send the necessary information over to them so they can calculate the amount of financial aid you are eligible to receive. Make sure you include any school you plan to attend so your financial aid awards are not delayed.
  6. Sign the document with your PIN.* The PIN serves as your electronic signature, or e-signature. You’ll use it to electronically sign and submit your FAFSA. If you don’t have a PIN, you’ll need to get one. If you’ve completed the FAFSA in the past, you probably already have a PIN. You can use the same PIN you used in the past to renew your FAFSA each school year, so keep it in a safe place. If you have forgotten your PIN, you can retrieve it. If you’re considered a dependent student, at least one of your parents will need a PIN as well. If you or one of your siblings have completed the FAFSA within the last 18 months, your parent(s) will use the same PIN they used before. If not, your parent(s) may need to apply for a new PIN.

*If you are considered a dependent student, your parent(s) will also need to do this. 

I’m finished. What’s next?

That’s it. You’ve filled it out. We told you it wasn’t so bad. With the hard part over, check out this page to learn who you will hear from and when.

Still have questions?

We’re here to help. Connect with us: StudentAid.gov/social.

Nicole Callahan is a new media analyst at the Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid.


  1. I graduated high school four years ago and attended community college for 2 years. I want to finish and get a degree but I don’t have the money. Even though my parents make a lot of money and I live in their house, i work full time and pay my way for everything except rent. At what point does a college understand my parents’ income doesn’t benefit me and isn’t shared with me?

  2. My son is attending college in July we filled out half of application I haven’t did taxes since 2011 I ‘ve been receiving long-term disability and disability for my son last year there’s no taxes take out what do I need to do my son is 19 he’s been looking for a job every since he graduated.

  3. If you had students loan in.70 and. School went. Bankruptcy and didn’t return loan funds back can you. still apply. If you need and want to go to school now? You were. Asked to claim. Total disability to stop. Being charged on the.loan.

    • Yes You can. I did. The way they look at it if you get a better job you can pay them off sooner. If you unemployed how can you pay them.

  4. My two daughters have completed their BS degrees and have applied to graduate programs for an MBA and DPT degrees. Do they need to complete a FAFSA and do I as parent need to complete a FAFSA? I;m under the impression theere in no such requirement at the graduate level as these is no such “financial aid” available for this level of education.

    • Your daughters will need to fill out their own FAFSAs at the grad level. They no longer count the parent income. Although there are no grants for the grad level, they may be eligible to get unsubsidized loans and work study, so have them fill it out!!!! My son was offered an unsubsidized loan and work study as a grad student.

  5. If a second home is “underwater” or can’t be sold for the amount still left on the loan…is it still considered an “asset”?

  6. Nice…is it possible to stress that after applying… students should always follow-up with the college they plan on attending to ensure that there is not additional documents needed to complete thier file???

    We often get students who get the e-mail from the Higher Ed Department telling them that thier application has been processed and the information has been sent to thier schools and the student thinks they are done. They are not aware that colleges may need additonal documentation to complete thier file and send them an award letter.



  7. If we filled out the FAFSA for my daughter’s first semester in college do we have to fill it out again?

    • The FAFSA you filled out covers your daughter’s upcoming entire year in college, and yes, the FAFSA should be filled out each subsequent year, during your daughter’s freshman, sophomore and junior years in college.

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