Updated: Jul 26, 2021
The FAFSA® (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is a form students and their parents fill out in order to apply for federal student aid like loans, grants, and work-study. The application asks for financial information that the federal government uses to determine your EFC, or Estimated Family Contribution. Your EFC is a key factor to determine if you are eligible for financial aid. Even if you don’t anticipate being eligible for federal aid, you should still fill it out, as it’s used to determine state and institutional aid, and some scholarships (even merit-based ones) may even require it.
The application for the following school year’s tuition becomes available on October 1st. Technically the deadline isn’t until June 30th, but waiting until then could cost you real money. Many states and schools have earlier deadlines for their aid. And in some situations, money can be “first come, first served.” If you don’t get your application in early, you could miss out on aid that could help pay for your education.
Here's what you need to fill out the FAFSA
If you’re not a U.S. citizen, you can use your Alien Registration Number instead.
It takes a couple of days to get one, so apply a few days before you plan to fill out the FAFSA. Parents and students each need their own IDs.
You’ll need tax returns for both parents and students from two years before the academic year you’re seeking aid.
Both parents and students will need to gather bank and investment statements and records of any untaxed income.
You may not have finalized this list yet, but include any that you’re considering, up to ten. The schools will receive this information and use it to determine your financial aid eligibility.
You will need to provide this information if you have a license. If you don’t have one, don’t worry about it. You can still submit your application.
Filling out the FAFSA is an important step towards achieving your college goals. It can seem a little overwhelming, but the whole process takes most people under an hour, even if it’s their first time doing it. And the earlier you fill it out, the better. Visit fafsa.gov to start the process.
FAFSA® is a registered trademark of the US Department of Education and is not affiliated with Discover Student Loans.
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