What is FAFSA and how do I apply?

Hey guys! I’ve decided to start a FAFSA series. With so much information, it can be confusing and frustrating when applying for financial aid. This is the first post in the series. I’m going to cover what FAFSA is and how to apply in this post.

If you’re a high-school student, college student, or parent, you’ve probably heard of FAFSA. But do you know what it is? If you do, great! If not, this post is for you!The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known as FAFSA, was created by the Federal Student Aid sector of the U.S. Department of Education.

Each year college-bound and college-current students can fill out the application and submit it online through the FAFSA website. Once processed, the information will be sent by FAFSA to the Financial Aid Office of the college or university where the student will be or is attending.

So, what does all of this means? Submitting a FAFSA application means that you are asking the government to look at your household income, taxes and other financial factors to determine if you’re eligible for FREE money. Yes, the government will give you free money if you’re eligible. They offer grants, work-study assignments and scholarships.

In addition, they offer loans for students who either need more money than the scholarships and grants pay for, or for students who are not eligible for the scholarships and grants. FAFSA is not based on merit, only on financial need. GPA, awards, etc. do not matter! I will cover what scholarships, grants, loans, and work-study are later in the series.

You can find more information about FAFSA on the student aid page. But I will explain how to apply below:

There are a few ways to fill out the application.

  • Online, this is the easiest and fastest way to get your FAFSA done
  • Paper, you can print off a PDF and mail it in or you can order the paper application by calling 1-877-433-7827
  • Go to your financial aid office. Some offices have special software.

I always fill out my FAFSA online. It’s easy, free, and I can save the information and come back later to finish.

Now, before you start completing the application, you need a few things:

  • Your social security number
  • Your parent’s social security number, if you’re a dependent (more on that in a later post)
  • Your driver license number if you have one
  • Your Alien Registration number if you’re not a U.S. citizen
  • Tax Information for yourself and your spouse (if you’re an independent) and your parents (if you’re a dependent)
  • Records of untaxed income (child support, interest income, and veteran non-education benefits for you and your parents if dependent)
  • Information on cash: savings and checking balances, investments, stocks, bonds, real estate and the information of all this for your parents if you’re a dependent

All of this won’t apply to you and that’s okay! Just have the information ready for the things that do.

Now, you have all the information necessary to fill out the application. I would recommend creating a FAFSA ID. This is a username and password that allows you to submit your electronic signature. If you’re a dependent, get your parents to make one too.

What about deadlines? The deadlines recently changed. You can apply for the next year’s aid as early as October 1st annually and FAFSA must be submitted by June 30th annually. Most schools have priority deadlines, around April 15th. The financial aid offices only have so much money so the earlier you get your FAFSA in, the more likely it is that you will get a decent amount of aid!

Read Part 2: “FAFSA Glossary: What do all these things mean??”

Like this post? Sign up for email updates. And feel free to leave a comment. Is there something about FAFSA that you’re unsure of? Let me know and I’ll make sure it’s covered in this series!


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