Whether you’re applying for an undergraduate program or grad school, deciding which college you’ll attend is one major piece of the puzzle. The other is figuring out how to pay for it. That’s where the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) comes in. We’ve broken down each step of the FAFSA process to make things a little easier for students and parents to fill out this important form to apply for federal student aid.
Step 1: Complete the FAFSA
The FAFSA, which is shorthand for Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is a form required to be considered for state- and federal-funded student aid. States and colleges also use FAFSA information when doling out their own grants, scholarships, and loans. That’s why it’s wise to fill out the FAFSA each year you’re in school, even if you don’t think you’ll qualify.
To complete the application, you’ll first need to apply for an FSA ID. This is the username and password you’ll use to log in to the US Department of Education online systems and electronically sign your FAFSA. Parents and students each need their own IDs. Once you have your FSA ID, you can gather the documents and information you’ll need to complete your FAFSA. That includes:
- Your Social Security number (SSN)
- Tax returns for parents and students going back two years before the academic year for which you’re seeking aid
- Asset records like bank and investment statements
- Your driver’s license number
- A list of the schools you’re applying to
The application becomes available October 1 of each year. FAFSA deadlines vary by state and school, but it’s best to get it done as soon as you can because some funds are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.