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”.
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.