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Guide to FAFSA, Deadlines, and Frequently Asked Questions

Nina Rodríguez

Staff Writer

13 min. read

If you are about to attend college or are already enrolled and want information on student aid, search no more. We have provided answers to the most frequently asked questions regarding the process and application requirements for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Also included are the FAFSA deadlines so you know exactly what you need to complete and when to complete it.

In This Article:

What Does FAFSA Stand For?

FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid in the U.S. (and its territories) and is a financial aid grant by the federal government to help students pay for college.

What Is the Purpose of FAFSA?

Since FAFSA is a way to help cover the cost of tuition, this form can be completed by prospective and current college students to determine whether or not they are eligible for student financial aid. This process includes evaluation for additional grants and scholarships, work-study opportunities, and confirmation of eligibility for low-interest-rate federal student loans from the U.S. Department of Education. Even for students who are willing (and can afford) to pay tuition out of pocket, filling out the FAFSA is a best practice.

FAFSA grants include Federal Pell Grant and the Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant (FSEOG). These are tuition grants, not loans, which means that students don’t have to pay back the government and there’s no accrued interest.

Qualifications and Paperwork for FAFSA

Most states and colleges use FAFSA to determine which students will receive state and school financial aid, as well as the amount they will get. To qualify for this aid, you will need to add information about your personal and family’s finances, such as tax returns.

This information is used to evaluate your financial need and what assistance you may qualify for in the forms of grants, work-study opportunities, or student loans.

Even students from higher-income families can apply, as they may qualify for financial assistance in the form of loans or work-study opportunities.

Which Documents Do I Need to Gather for the FAFSA Application?

When filling out the application, you will need to add important information about yourself, such as name, date of birth, address, and details regarding your personal or family financial situation. Depending on your citizenship status and which tax form you (and your family) use, you might need to include the following information (and sometimes proof of documentation):

  • Social Security number (make sure you enter it correctly on the FAFSA form)
  • Your parents’ Social Security numbers (if you are a dependent student)
  • A driver’s license number (if you have one)
  • Alien Registration number (if you are not a U.S. citizen)
  • Federal tax information or tax returns, including IRS W-2 information, depending on whether it is your parents’ or your own (and/or your spouse’s). This could include IRS 1010, IRS 1040NR, IR1040NR-EZ, foreign tax returns, or tax returns for U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Guam, Marshall Islands, Palau, the Federal States of Micronesia, and American Samoa.
  • Information about any untaxed income, such as child support received and veterans noneducation benefits (including you, and your parents, if you are a dependent student)
  • Financial information, such as balances of savings and checking accounts

It is important for you to know that you should not email these documents, but keep them on record. Jaron Tucker, Assistant Director of Financial Aid for the College Of Professional Studies at Northeastern University recommended in our interview with him that even if you have access to edit your form, “all the information you add should be truthful. Don’t try to hide anything; it is not beneficial. The Department of Education needs to evaluate and know your potential economic information, for real, so they can receive the right picture.”

Due Dates for FAFSA

There are three types of FAFSA deadlines:

  • College deadline: deadlines vary by school. Check their websites for this information or contact the financial aid office for the colleges you are interested in.
  • Federal deadline: according to StudentAid.Gov, the online applications must be submitted by midnight Central Time (CT) June 30 each year. Corrections and updates must be submitted by midnight CT September 12.
  • State deadline: the FAFSA opens on October 1 each year. Applying close to this date will increase your chances of qualifying for grants, scholarships, and work-study aid.

Here are the deadlines for each state and relevant information needed for FAFSA:

State/Territory2019-20 State Deadline2020-21 State Deadline
Alabama (AL)As soon as possible; there is no official deadline. The funds are not awarded until the funds are designated for this state. Contact your financial aid administrator or college for deadlines.As soon as possible; there is no official deadline. The funds are not awarded until the funds are designated for this state. Contact your financial aid administrator or college for deadlines.
Alaska (AK)As soon as possible after October 1, 2018, as there is no official deadline. But the financial aid will be granted on a first-come, first-served basis.As soon as possible after October 1, 2019, as there is no official deadline. But the financial aid will be granted on a first-come, first-served basis.
American Samoa (AS)Check with your school’s financial aid administrator. Additional forms might be required.Check with your school’s financial aid administrator. Additional forms might be required.
Arizona (AZ)Check with your school’s financial aid administrator. Additional forms might be required.Check with your school’s financial aid administrator. Additional forms might be required.
Arkansas (AR)Check with your school’s financial aid administrator. Additional forms might be required.Check with your school’s financial aid administrator. Additional forms might be required.
California (CA)For many state financial aid programs: March 2, 2019 (date postmarked). Check with your school’s financial aid administrator.For many state financial aid programs: March 2, 2020 (date postmarked). Check with your school’s financial aid administrator.
Colorado (CO)Check with your school’s financial aid administrator.Check with your school’s financial aid administrator.
Connecticut (CT)For priority consideration, submit your application by midnight CT, February 15, 2019. Additional forms may be required. Contact your school’s financial aid administrator or your state agency.For priority consideration, submit your application by midnight Central time, February 15, 2020. Additional forms might be required. Contact your school’s financial aid administrator or your state agency.
Delaware (DE)April 15, 2019, by midnight CT.April 15, 2020, by midnight CT.
District of Columbia (DC)For priority consideration, your FAFSA form should be completed by May 1, 2019.For priority consideration, submit your FAFSA form by May 1, 2020.
Federated States of Micronesia (FM, FSM)Check with your school’s financial aid administrator. Additional forms might be required.Check with your school’s financial aid administrator. Additional forms might be required.
Florida (FL)May 15, 2019 (date processed)May 15, 2020 (date processed)
Georgia (GA)Check with your school’s financial aid administrator.Check with your school’s financial aid administrator.
Guam (GU)Check with your school’s financial aid administrator. Additional forms might be required.Check with your school’s financial aid administrator. Additional forms might be required.
Hawaii (HI)Check with your school’s financial aid administrator. Additional forms might be required.Check with your school’s financial aid administrator. Additional forms might be required.
Idaho (ID)For priority consideration, submit your application by midnight CT, March 1, 2019. Additional forms may be required. Contact your school’s financial aid administrator or your state agency.For priority consideration, submit your application by midnight CT, March 1, 2020. Additional forms might be required. Contact your school’s financial aid administrator or your state agency.
Illinois (IL)As soon as possible after October 1, 2018, as there is no official deadline. But the financial aid will be granted on a first-come, first-served basis.As soon as possible after October 1, 2019, as there is no official deadline. But the financial aid will be granted on a first-come, first-served basis.
Indiana (IN)As soon as possible after October 1, 2018.As soon as possible after October 1, 2019.
Iowa (IA)July 1, 2019, by midnight CT. Earlier priority deadlines may exist for certain programs. Additional forms may be required.July 1, 2020, by midnight CT. Earlier priority deadlines might exist for certain programs. Additional forms might be required.
Kansas (KS)For priority consideration, submit your application by midnight CT, April 1, 2019. Additional forms may be required. Contact your school’s financial aid administrator or your state agency.For priority consideration, submit your application by midnight Central time, April 1, 2020. Additional forms might be required. Contact your school’s financial aid administrator or your state agency.
Kentucky (KY)As soon as possible after October 1, 2018, as there is no official deadline. But the financial aid will be granted on a first-come, first-served basis.As soon as possible after October 1, 2019, as there is no official deadline. But the financial aid will be granted on a first-come, first-served basis.
Louisiana (LA)July 1, 2020 (July 1, 2019 recommended).July 1, 2021 (July 1, 2020 recommended).
Maine (ME)May 1, 2019, by midnight CT.May 1, 2020, by midnight CT.
Marshall Islands (MH)Check with your school’s financial aid administrator. Additional forms may be required.Check with your school’s financial aid administrator. Additional forms might be required.
Maryland (MD)March 1, 2019, by midnight CT.March 1, 2020, by midnight CT.
Massachusetts (MA)For priority consideration, submit your application by midnight CT, May 1, 2019.For priority consideration, submit your application by midnight CT, May 1, 2020.
Michigan (MI)March 1, 2019, by midnight CT.March 1, 2020, by midnight CT.
Minnesota (MN)30 days after the term starts, by midnight CT.30 days after the term starts, by midnight CT.
Mississippi (MS)Check with your school’s financial aid administrator.Check with your school’s financial aid administrator.
Missouri (MO)For priority consideration, submit your application by February 1, 2019. Applications are accepted through April 1, 2019, at midnight CT.For priority consideration, submit your application by February 3, 2020. Applications are accepted through April 1, 2020, at midnight CT.
Montana (MT)Check with your school’s financial aid administrator. Additional forms might be required.For priority consideration, submit your application by December 1, 2019. Check with your school’s financial aid administrator. Additional forms might be required.
Nebraska (NE)Check with your school’s financial aid administrator.Check with your school’s financial aid administrator.
Nevada (NV)As soon as possible after October 1, 2018.
Check with your school’s financial aid administrator. Additional forms may be required.
As soon as possible after October 1, 2019.
Check with your school’s financial aid administrator. Additional forms may be required.
New Hampshire (NH)Check with your school’s financial aid administrator. Additional forms might be required.Check with your school’s financial aid administrator. Additional forms might be required.
New Jersey (NJ)Fall and spring terms: September 15, 2019, by midnight CT.
Spring term only: February 15, 2020, by midnight CT.
April 15, 2020, by midnight CT.
Fall and spring terms: September 15, 2020, by midnight CT.
New Mexico (NM)Check with your school’s financial aid administrator.Check with your school’s financial aid administrator.
New York (NY)June 30, 2020, by midnight CT. Additional forms may be required.June 30, 2021, by midnight CT. Additional forms might be required.
North Carolina (NC)As soon as possible after October 1, 2018, as there is no official deadline. But the financial aid will be granted on a first-come, first-served basis.As soon as possible after October 1, 2019, as there is no official deadline. But the financial aid will be granted on a first-come, first-served basis.
North Dakota (ND)As soon as possible after October 1, 2018.As soon as possible after October 1, 2019.
Northern Mariana Islands (MP)April 30, 2019.April 30, 2020.
Ohio (OH)October 1, 2019, by midnight CT.October 1, 2020, by midnight CT.
Oklahoma (OK)As soon as possible after October 1, 2018, as there is no official deadline. But the financial aid will be granted on a first-come, first-served basis.As soon as possible after October 1, 2019, as there is no official deadline. But the financial aid will be granted on a first-come, first-served basis.
Oregon (OR)As soon as possible after October 1, 2018, as there is no official deadline. But the financial aid will be granted on a first-come, first-served basis.As soon as possible after October 1, 2019, as there is no official deadline. But the financial aid will be granted on a first-come, first-served basis.
Palau (PW)Check with your school’s financial aid administrator. Additional forms may be required.Check with your school’s financial aid administrator. Additional forms might be required.
Pennsylvania (PA)First-time applicants for community college, business/trade/technical school, hospital school of nursing, non-transferable two-year programs, and such: August 1, 2019.
All other applicants: May 1, 2019.
First-time applicants for community college, business/trade/technical school, hospital school of nursing, non-transferable two-year programs, and such: August 1, 2020.
All other applicants:May 1, 2020.
Puerto Rico (PR)Check with your school’s financial aid administrator.Check with your school’s financial aid administrator.
Rhode Island (RI)Check with your school’s financial aid administrator. Additional forms may be required.Check with your school’s financial aid administrator. Additional forms may be required.
South Carolina (SC)As soon as possible after October 1, 2018, as there is no official deadline. But the financial aid will be granted on a first-come, first-served basis.As soon as possible after October 1, 2019, as there is no official deadline. But the financial aid will be granted on a first-come, first-served basis.
South Dakota (SD)Check with your school’s financial aid administrator. Additional forms may be required.Check with your school’s financial aid administrator. Additional forms may be required.
Tennessee (TN)Apply by February 1, 2019.Apply by February 1, 2020.
Texas (TX)As soon as possible after October 1, 2018.For priority consideration: January 15, 2020.
U.S. Virgin Islands (VI)Check with your school’s financial aid administrator. Additional forms may be required.Check with your school’s financial aid administrator. Additional forms may be required.
Utah (UT)As soon as possible. Awards are made until funds are depleted. Check with your school’s financial aid administrator. Additional forms might be required.As soon as possible. Awards are made until funds are depleted. Check with your school’s financial aid administrator. Additional forms might be required.
Vermont (VT)As soon as possible after October 1, 2018, as there is no official deadline. But the financial aid will be granted on a first-come, first-served basis.As soon as possible after October 1, 2019, as there is no official deadline. But the financial aid will be granted on a first-come, first-served basis.
Virginia (VA)Check with your school’s financial aid administrator. Additional forms may be required.Check with your school’s financial aid administrator. Additional forms may be required.
Washington (WA)As soon as possible after October 1, 2018, as there is no official deadline. But the financial aid will be granted on a first-come, first-served basis.As soon as possible after October 1, 2019, as there is no official deadline. But the financial aid will be granted on a first-come, first-served basis.
West Virginia (WV)As soon as possible after October 1, 2018, as there is no official deadline. Additional forms may be required.As soon as possible after October 1, 2019, as there is no official deadline. Additional forms may be required.
Wisconsin (WI)Check with your school’s financial aid administrator.Check with your school’s financial aid administrator.
Wyoming (WY)Check with your school’s financial aid administrator. Additional forms may be required.Check with your school’s financial aid administrator. Additional forms may be required.

What If I Miss a Deadline for FAFSA?

If you miss a deadline, you could possibly miss out on thousands of dollars in aid money or grants. Some financial aid is granted by priority since there are limited funds, which means that the first people to apply are more likely to receive it. Our suggestion is that you don’t delay.

But in case you are delayed, make sure you complete and file your FAFSA as soon as possible, because some schools and states may still award funding or financial aid.

If you miss the federal deadline (June 30), you will no longer be eligible to submit that year’s FAFSA form.

Important Information About FAFSA

  • Applications can be completed online (mobile-friendly application), by printing the application, or by digitally filling out the PDF form. The myStudentAid Mobile App is also available for Android devices and Apple devices to help prospective or current students with the application process. Completing the application online does direct you to the Student Aid Report (SAR) sooner. Also, FAFSA online has a built-in edit check to avoid simple errors on the application. Additionally, you can list up to 10 colleges of interest.
  • If you are a non-citizen without a Social Security number or with one issued through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, you should fill out the California Dream Act Application, as you are not eligible for FAFSA and should not fill out that application.
  • To be considered for financial aid, many states and colleges set a priority deadline. Since some have limited funds, applying sooner rather than later is better in every case.
  • If you are a high school student and don’t yet know where you are going to study, you can fill out your FAFSA application and add the school later on, since FAFSA allows you to make edits.
  • Because there are three types of deadlines for each academic year, make sure you check the list for deadlines in this guide.
  • If you have a change of circumstances, such as parents changing/losing jobs, becoming an independent student, or any other significant life change, after completing the application, notify your school’s financial aid advisors so they have a current idea of your financial needs: This can affect what financial aid may be provided to you.

For more information for students and parents about how to complete the FAFSA, here is an additional worksheet from Studentaid.gov for 2020-2021.

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