7 Steps to Filling Out the FAFSA

7 Steps to Filling Out the FAFSA

Need to fill out the FAFSA® but don’t know where to start? I’m 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 me walk you through it step by step:

IMPORTANT: On May 10, 2015, we changed the way you log in to fafsa.gov. You now must use an FSA ID to log in and sign the FAFSA online. You can no longer use a PIN. If you are required to provide parent information on the FAFSA, your parent must register for an FSA ID too. Create your FSA ID at  StudentAid.gov/fsaid

1. Go to 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: fafsa.gov.

2. Log in using your FSA ID

If you completed a FAFSA last year: Click “Login” and enter your FSA ID. If you haven’t transitioned your PIN to an FSA ID, you can do so here. If possible, make sure you link your PIN during the FSA ID registration process. Otherwise, you will need to wait 1-3 days before you can use your FSA ID to sign and submit your renewal FAFSA.

If this is your first time completing the FAFSA: Click “Start a new FAFSA” and enter your FSA ID. If you haven’t created an FSA ID yet, you can do that here. You will be able to use your FSA ID to sign and submit your new FAFSA right away.

If you are a parent: Click “login” and “Enter the student’s information”.

FAFSA Login Screen

3. Choose which FAFSA you’d like to complete

The new FAFSA that becomes available on January 1, 2016, is the 2016–17 FAFSA. You should complete the 2016–17 FAFSA if you will be attending college between July 1, 2016 and June 30, 2017. Remember, the FAFSA is not a one-time thing. You must complete your FAFSA each school year.

Note: The 2015–16 FAFSA is also available if you will be attending college between July 1, 2015 and June 30, 2016, and you haven’t applied for financial aid yet.

4. 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 information 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.)

5. Enter your financial information*

All of it. You should use income records for the tax year prior to the academic yearfor which you are applying. For example, if you are filling out the 2016–17 FAFSA, you will need to use 2015 tax information. If you or your parent(s) haven’t filed your 2015 taxes yet, which at this point, most people haven’t, you can always estimate the amounts using your 2014 tax return; just make sure to update your FAFSA once you file your 2015 taxes. Once you file your taxes, 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!

6. Choose up to 10 schools

Two-thirds of freshmen FAFSA applicants list only one college on their applications. Don’t make this mistake! Make sure you add any school you plan to attend, even if you haven’t applied or been accepted yet. You can add up to 10 schools to your FAFSA at a time. We will send the necessary information over to the schools you listed so they can calculate the amount of financial aid you are eligible to receive.  If you’re applying to more than 10 schools, this is what you do.

7. Sign the document with your FSA ID*

Your FSA ID serves as your electronic signature, or e-signature. You’ll use it to electronically sign and submit your FAFSA. If you don’t have an FSA ID, you’ll need to get one. If you’re considered a dependent student, at least one of your parents or your legal guardian will need an FSA ID as well. You will use your FSA ID to renew/correct your FAFSA each school year, so keep it in a safe place. If you have forgotten your FSA ID, you can retrieve it. If you have siblings, your parent can use the same FSA ID to sign FAFSAs for all his or her children.

*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. I told you it wasn’t so bad. With the hard part over, check out this page to learn what you should do next.

Nicole Callahan is a Digital Engagement Strategist at Federal Student Aid.


  1. I am a parent who needs to fill out the FAFSA . I’ve done this in previous years, but now I can’t seem to login as a parent. When I click the right side box “enter the student’s information”, it still thinks I am the student and wants his FAFSA id. He hasn’t gotten it yet. Can’t I get my portion filled out while I wait for him?

    • When does the FAFSA ask for the student’s FSA ID? Did you create a Save Key yet? You should be able to begin the application as the parent.

  2. HELP..I have raised my grandson all of his life. He has lived with me. His mother has a mental disability and is under Dr. care and on meds
    she has NO and has never pertisapated in his life. His father is remarried with two children, lives in Virginia Beach,( we live in Hawaii) has always paid me $400. a month in child support, but has not participated I any aspect of his life. Nothing was ever done in court, but I have always totally supported him., and have gotten grants from the schools I have had him in . He had Dyslexia, but does well in school and has been excepted at UW. Now they want to base the aid on his fathers income and I am the one supporting him. what can I do to make them understand I am his full financial support.

    • Sorry, because you have not legally adopted your grandson, you cannot put your financial information on his FAFSA and be considered one of his parents. Assuming that his parents are legally divorced and his father has legally remarried someone else, he needs to answer questions about the parent with whom he has lived more during the past 12 months. There is a question about child support received in 2015, which he can report. You can also talk to the financial aid office at the school he plans to attend and explain your situation. Provide documentation if you can, they should be able to help.

  3. We are U.S. citizens currently living in Australia, with income from and tax returns filed in both U.S. and Australia.
    We declare our worldwide income (including the Australian part) in our U.S. tax filings. Therefore, may we just submit the information from our U.S. tax returns? Thanks for your guidance.

  4. I have one college student we have submitted his fafsa for the 2016-17 year however the 2017-18 year I have twins who will be going to college so a total of three what do I need to do to add them to our existing fafsa account ?

    • Each student must have their own FAFSA and FSA ID. Family members cannot share a FAFSA. When your children are filling out the FAFSA, there will be a question that asks “While you are in college, how many people in your household will be college students?” which is where they will declare their siblings are also attending college. The number of people going to college is one factor of how much aid they’ll get. However, there are many other factors, so keep that in mind.

  5. When filling out the Parent portion of FAFSA regarding net worth, do you include the savings accounts for each of our children as part of our net worth? (All 3 of our children are under 18. This includes our rising college student). Same with College 529 accounts?

    • Yes. If your kids are considered dependent students, qualified educational benefits or education savings accounts such as Coverdell savings accounts, 529 college savings plans and the refund value of 529 prepaid tuition plans are a PARENT investment, not a student investment. More: https://fafsa.ed.gov/help/fotw43eF4c.htm

  6. Admissions requirements for LSAC.org, fall 2016 admissions need updates enrollment to application fees wavied per IRS.gov. An fafsa-caster data on file 2014-2015. Goals to seek the JM law degree/jd/ma dual degree. thank you! 01/02/2016.

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