7 Things You Need Before You Fill Out the FAFSA

If you need financial aid to help you pay for college, you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). The 2016–17 FAFSA is available on January 1, 2016, at 12 a.m. Central Time. You should fill it out (for FREE) on the official government site, fafsa.gov.


To speed up the FAFSA process, get prepared early. Here is what you’ll need to fill out the FAFSA:

1. Your FSA ID*

On May 15, 2015, we changed the way you log into the FAFSA. You now need an FSA ID, instead of a PIN, to log in and sign your FAFSA online.

Anyone who plans to fill out the 2016–17 FAFSA should create an FSA ID as soon as possible. In some situations, you may need to wait up to 3 days to use your FSA ID after registering. If you want to avoid FAFSA delays, register for an FSA ID now.

If you are required to provide parent information on your FAFSA, your parent will need to register for an FSA ID too. Because your FSA ID is equivalent to your signature, parents and students each need to create their own FSA IDs using separate e-mail addresses. Parents should not create an FSA ID for their child and vice versa.

2. Your Social Security number*

You can find the number on your social security card. If you don’t have access to it, and don’t know where it is, ask your parent or legal guardian or get a new or replacement social security card from the Social Security Administration. If you are not a U.S. citizen, but meet Federal Student Aid’s basic eligibility requirements, you’ll need your Alien Registration Number.

3. Your driver’s license number

If you don’t have a driver’s license, then don’t worry about this step.

4. Your tax records*

Use income records for the tax year prior to the academic year for which you are applying: so if you are filling out the 2016–17 FAFSA, you will need 2015 tax information. If you haven’t filed your taxes yet, don’t worry! You can still fill out the FAFSA now. Just estimate the amounts using your 2014 tax return and make sure to update your FAFSA once you file your 2015 taxes. After you file, you may be able to import your tax information electronically into the FAFSA using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.

5. Records of your untaxed income*

This includes variables that may or may not apply to you, like child support received, interest income and veterans non-education benefits. Parents can find specific details here. Students can find details here.

6. Records of all your assets (money)*

This includes savings and checking account balances, as well as investments like stocks and bonds and real estate.

7. List of the school(s) you are interested in attending

Two-thirds of freshmen FAFSA applicants list only one college on their applications. Don’t make this mistake! Be sure to list any school you’re considering, even if you haven’t applied or been accepted yet. The schools you list on your FAFSA will automatically receive your FAFSA results electronically. They will use your FAFSA information to determine the types and amounts of financial aid you may receive. If you add a school to your FAFSA and decide not to apply, that’s OK. The school likely won’t award you aid until you’ve been accepted anyway. You can list up to 10 schools on your FAFSA. If you’re applying to more than 10 schools, you can add more later.

TIP:  To be considered for state aid, several states require you to list schools in a particular order (for instance, you might need to list a state school first). Find out whether your state has a requirement for the order in which you list schools on your FAFSA.

*If you’re a dependent student, you will need this information for your parent(s) as well.

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


  1. Hi, my husband and I’ve filed our tax for 2015. When my daughter goes in to fill out the tax portion, can she also change the asset balance on the FAFSA since it was an estimate when she was told to submit it during an FAFSA workshop? Thank you for your time!

  2. last year when my daughter apply for fafsa me and my husband filed income tax joint but this year we are planning to file separate. what will be the effect of this in my daughters fafsa application . and also if we have more income . does it mean she will get less financial aide than the previous year.

    • 1. Filing joint or separate has no impact on the amount of aid you receive. If parents are still married, we ask for financial information from both parents separately. The only thing that changes is you won’t be eligible to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to automatically transfer 2015 taxes into the FAFSA.

      2. Financial information is used to determine your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The EFC is considered when schools calculate aid, however there are many other factors that they consider: 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 daughter is eligible to receive.

  3. My husband had a stroke, followed by brain surgery–resulting in his job approving him for long-term disability. He receives a partial paycheck every month from the insurance company, plus a partial check from Social Security disability. My daughter graduates in 2017 and plan on going to college. He does not reach his retirement age until her 2nd year of college. My question is this… Part of his social security check for his disability is allocated to my daughter until she turns 18, and they issue a W-2 to her. It’s nearly 12,000/year. (this is the first year). Will that $12,000 count against my daughter when applying for FAFSA? How can I show that this money is not her income? Should I have her write a check back to us so that it’s in our checking account? I’m afraid that she will get less aid, even though the money is part of my husband’s disability income.

  4. I am the divorced mother of two children that need the FAFSA completed using my information. I have remarried, but my new husband will not be contributing in any way to my children’s college tuition. Do my children still have to report his information on their FAFSA?

  5. Have a child in college and doing fafsa. They live on campus and only home 2 months out of the year, can go back and forth from one parent to the next. They work so their is no one pays more than the other. Can either one of us fill the fafsa out for the child. Does it matter who claims the child on taxes??

  6. I am just divorce as of January 2016. Ex husband has moved out. We will still file joint for 2015. My son lives with me. Which parents info do we put on the FASFA and since it is joint, do we subtract the other parents info from the tax information submitted?

  7. I have applied for my FSA ID. My son, the student, tried to do the same and when he entered his personal information, SS#, name, a window opened that said the information is already associated with another account. We have checked the info entered to make sure he did not make a mistake, which he did not, but when we resubmit the same message appears.

    How can his personal info be associated with another account?
    How can we rectify this??

    • What specifically did it say was already registered with another account? The email? Social Security number?

  8. Why is it that I can access the FASFA application using the save key my child established, but there’s no way to review the processed application and SAR report? Shouldn’t I as the parent signatory to the form and key contributor from the “family” have an equal right to view the governments determination of the expected family contribution (EFC) without my child having to jump through more hoops ? There is not way that I an see to access the SAR except using the student’s FSA id which clearly I’m not supposed to know.

    • The student is the owner of their FAFSA, not the parent. The student can download a PDF of the SAR and email it to you if you wish to see it.

  9. I’m a permanent resident, I will apply soon for my citizenship. My husband (which is an American citizen) and I file taxes together and he just quit his job cause he can’t attend college and work at the same time, I’m the only one working right now but we are afraid to apply for his financial aid cause when I moved to the U.S. the USCIS told me as a resident I can’t ask for any financial aid or my joint sponsor will have to pay 100% of what I ask for. Does that affect my husband too since we do taxes together or he can still ask for financial aid?


    • Is your husband completing a FAFSA or you are? Who is going to college? Since your husband is a U.S. citizen, he can complete a FAFSA. It doesn’t matter how you file taxes, as long as you meet our eligibility requirements you can apply for aid. If you are not planning to go to college, you do not have to complete a FAFSA.

  10. I’m divorced and my ex husband claims our twins as dependents on his income tax. Is there something special I need to state on the FAFSA form as a divorced mother of twins?

    • The FAFSA asks if you’re an emancipated minor, not an unaccompanied minor.
      Emancipated Minor – An individual (under the age of 18) who has legally been determined to be an adult by a court in his or her state of legal residence.

  11. My granddaughter is a senior in High School. wanting to go to college this year. She lives with myself and her Grandpa, and has for about 3-1/2 years. We only claimed her on income tax one year, that was in 2014. Her father is claiming her for 2015. Her father has legal custody of her, but she wanted to live with us and he doesn’t have a problem with that. Her father does pay us child support (it is not ordered by the court, he just pays it, most of the time) However he does not want to participate in the application for FASFA, or give any income tax information . Her Mother is on government disability and hasn’t made enough income the last few years to file income taxes. I am at a loss as what to do about completing the FASFA application. She has applied to 2 Universities and been accepted to both. Desperately wants to go to college. What do we do?

    • Your granddaughter should complete the FAFSA and include both of her parent’s information, assuming they are not divorced or separated. It doesn’t matter who claims her on taxes since the FAFSA has different dependency requirements from the IRS.

      If her father is unwilling to give her his information, she can still complete the FAFSA. The downside is she may only qualify for unsubsidized loans. If she can’t get his info, she should answer “no” to being able to provide parent information and also “no” to the special circumstance question. She should check with her school’s financial aid office for further assistance with her unique situation. More: https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa/filling-out/parent-info#unwilling-parents

      For her mother, she can select “Not going to file” when she gets to the question about taxes. She does need to report any Supplemental Security Income (SSI) received during 2014-2015. There will be a question that asks “What was the total of your other untaxed income or benefits?” https://fafsa.ed.gov/fotw1617/help/totalOtherUntaxedIncome.htm 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. https://fafsa.ed.gov/fotw1617/help/ssiStudent.htm

  12. i created my FSA-ID, but when i logged on in to my fafsa account it asked me for my ” save key” and i entered it, and it does not let me it says that ” the info in the fafsa is not the same as de fsa-id” which is weird, because it is

    • The “Save Key” and the FSA ID password are completely different. Sorry for the confusion. The FSA ID is a username and password. The save key must be between 4 and 8 characters long. When a student begins their FAFSA, they can define what the Save Key is. They can share this Save Key to their parent, allowing their parent to access their application and add information. The parent can also sign their child’s FAFSA. Signing the FAFSA requires an FSA ID. The Save Key is just to SHARE the FAFSA between student and parent. The FSA ID, however, is an electronic signature.

  13. My mom and I started the fafsa, I was wondering if we signed up for the fafsa ID correctly. When I sign in we sign in with one ID and password but when I sign in it asks me to select my mom it welcomes hee and then I select my name. And then we are able to select 2016-2017 application.

    • As the student, YOU are the owner of your FAFSA. You log into your FAFSA using your FSA ID. Your mom’s role is to sign your FAFSA using her FSA ID, which happens at the end of your application. Do not login to your FAFSA using your mom’s FSA ID. That will confuse the system and assume she is the student, which isn’t the case.

  14. Hi,
    Thanks for all the helpful hints. We started on the FAFSA yesterday but I got a bit confused on the of untaxed income and assets. Both my husband and I have wages taken from out paycheck and put into retirement and they are being matched by our employers. Does something like this need to be declared? Also do these figures have to be added into the assets figures? Thanks!

  15. Please answer the major question asked by Diallo Alpha: What if you have no parental financial support?

  16. My granddaughter is living with me and going to college. She filed her FAFSA last year with her parents, she didn’t get much help. She is commuting to college but living with me her commute is about 70 miles a day. Can she file FAFSA on her own, will that help her get more help. She has tried to work some but didn’t make much money. Her parents live about 600 miles away.

  17. I’m a junior in HS, going into second semester in a couple of days. Am I eligible for the 2015-2016 FAFSA, 2016-2017 FAFSA or both?

  18. I read that I could have my educational institution request additional loan monies for extraordinary expenses. Please confirm and if so please advise how they need to accomplish this.

    • What extraordinary expenses are you referring to? Are they education related expenses? If so, you need to complete a FAFSA and your school will calculate how much aid you’re eligible to receive.

    • You can complete a FAFSA during your senior year of high school. The 2017-18 FAFSA will be available on October 1, 2016. The 2017-18 FAFSA is for students who will be attending college between 7/1/17–6/30/18.

  19. I want to apply for the fafsa/FSA ID. I may not know if there will be a work while studying?

    • Do you mean work-study? Federal Work-Study provides part-time jobs for undergraduate and graduate students with financial need, allowing them to earn money to help pay education expenses. If you’re interested in getting a Federal Work-Study job while you’re enrolled in college or career school, make sure you complete the FAFSA early. Schools that participate in the Federal Work-Study Program award funds on a first come, first served basis. More info: https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/types/work-study

  20. I created an FSAID last May when I needed to make a change to my 2014-2015 FAFSA and submit 2015-2016 FAFSA I have forgotten my password. When I use the “forgot password” link I am unable to create a new one. What should I do? I recently received a notice of a change to my 2015-2016 SAR but cannot access it for review to see what info has changed.

    • Yes! There is a section on the FAFSA that asks if the parent will file 2015 taxes. You can select “Not going to file.”

  21. Do both parents need their own FSA ID in addition to student? My husband got one and my student but am wondering if I need one also.

    • Hi Laurie. Only one parent needs an FSA ID in order to sign their dependent student’s FAFSA. Good job getting a head start and getting your FSA IDs early!

  22. If you have no parents To support you anyone can y ou apply because i want To apply but i have none who can help me To pay MY fees i’m guinean by nationnality

  23. I filed for FAFSA back in 2011 for 2012 I had a series of situations that occurred prohibiting me from finishing college I brought this to the attention of the Dean due to the fact that I had an $1,100 balance they will not pardon me. what can I do to rectify the situation and return to college?

  24. How come they haven’t opened offices to help with application… Like Liberty tax offices where you can pay a fee to help and ensure you fill it out correctly?

    • Hi Beth. The FAFSA offers a lot of tips while you’re filling out the form. However, if you get stuck, we do have live chat and a phone line available. Your child’s high school should have a financial aid office that can offer some help. Also, the state you live in may be able to help answer your questions. Many state higher education agencies provide resources to help students prepare for college and a career: http://www2.ed.gov/about/contacts/state/index.html

      Remember, the FAFSA is completely FREE to file if you use our official government website: http://fafsa.gov If you find a company that is charging you money to file the FAFSA, they are NOT affiliated with the U.S. Department of Education.

  25. HI
    MY CHILD ( IHAB SALLAOUI ) he ,s living in tunisia &year of birth (1997) Baccalaureate passed the exam in 2015 in the economy and act now wants to help you to be educated in the States of america.thank a lot for your appriciation

  26. I did the fafsa the past 4 years and last year set up new ID. Now, need to do one for my other child. Do I need to have a brand new ID or can I use last year’s , that was used for other child?

    • Hi Mary. You (and your child, if they are dependent) both need a brand new FSA ID. The FSA ID did not exist last year, it is a new process introduced in May 2015. You probably used personal credentials and a PIN (four digit number) in the past. We decommissioned the PIN and replaced it with the FSA ID, which is a username and password. Sorry for the confusion!

Comments are closed.