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If you are about to go to college and are wondering how to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) online, you will find that the process is pretty easy. Also, if you fill out the FAFSA online, you’ll get a quicker answer (within three to five days, versus 1.5 to two weeks by mail).
Life Hack: Gather all the needed documents before going online. These might include: student’s Social Security number (dependent students will need parents’ Social Security number), student’s driver license number, federal tax information or tax returns (some of which would include documents like IRS 1010, IRS 1040NR, IR1040NR-EZ, and more), and verification of untaxed income (such as child support received and veterans’ noneducation benefits). You should also include financial information, such as balances of savings accounts, checking accounts, and/or investments, if applicable.
How to Fill Out the FAFSA
If you are ready to start filling out the form, make sure you are on the official FAFSA website and submit it as soon as possible, since some financial aid is given on a first-come, first-served basis. Even if you are still in high school and are about to graduate, you can apply once the FAFSA application period is open (After October 1 each year).
The FAFSA is a free application and you will not be asked for any payment on the official website. The information requested in the application is sensitive and private and should not be provided to any unofficial financial aid websites.
In addition, the FAFSA website recommends that you enable pop-ups from fafsa.ed.gov in your browser before logging into the FAFSA form.
Filling out the FAFSA, step-by-step
Step 1. Create your new FSA ID
- Your FSA ID is a username and password that will grant you access to Federal Student Aid’s system, serving as your legal signature.
- Creating your FSA ID requires your email address, a username, and a password (which you will need to confirm). After you are done, follow the instructions to enter the personal details you are asked for: first name, middle name initial, last name, date of birth, and Social Security number, as they appear on your Social Security card.
- Always verify that information is entered correctly before submitting forms. Once you submit the information, it can take up to three days for FSA to verify your information.
- If you are a parent of a dependent student and want to add your financial information, you will need to create an FSA ID as well.
Step 2. Go to FAFSA.gov
Step 3. Choose if you are new to FAFSA or a returning user
Step 4. Choose the option that best suits you: student, parent, preparer, or student from a Freely Associated State
Step 5. Add username, email address or mobile number, and password
Step 6. Start your application
- Choose the school year you are applying for financial aid. If you want to complete the FAFSA for two different school years, you will need to start one and wait three days before completing the next one.
- Create a save key; this will be used as a temporary key for you or your parent to return and complete the specific FAFSA you are filling in. Click next.
Step 7. Complete your demographic information using your legal information
Step 8. Add and select schools (even potential ones)
- If this is your first time, it is better to select all schools that you want to attend (you can add up to 10 schools online). If you change your mind, you can edit these entries, even if you don’t yet have the letter of acceptance. Schools you choose not to attend will simply disregard your FAFSA application, so it doesn’t hurt to list all the schools you are considering.
Step 9. Answer questions about your dependency
- To check if you are a dependent or independent student, you can check the Student Aid page here.
Step 10. Answer questions on parent demographics
- (Independent students can skip this step.)
Step 11. Fill out the information about your finances
- If you are a dependent student, you will need to fill out both your parents’ and your personal finances.
Step 12. Add any supporting documents, sign electronically, and submit
- If you are a dependent, you will need your parent’s signature, which they can provide by logging in with their individual FSA ID.
Editing FAFSA Online
After filling out the FAFSA, you can do the following: add or remove colleges from your application, change your email or mailing addresses, and correct any field in your FAFSA. The only thing you can’t change is your Social Security number (SSN).
To make any of the allowed changes, you just need to do the following:
1. Log in to the FAFSA website and select if you are a student or a parent
Students, add the following:
- Student’s FSA ID username, mobile number, or email address
- FSA ID password
Parents, add the following:
- Student’s first name
- Student’s full last name
- Student’s Social Security number
- Student’s date of birth (month, day, year)
2. Enable pop-ups from fafsa.ed.gov before logging in
3. On the “My FAFSA” page, select “Make FAFSA corrections”
4. Create a “save key”
5. Change the information that you need to edit
6. Submit that new information
- If you need help, you can contact the financial aid officer at the school you plan to attend; they might be able to make changes and updates electronically for you.
What Happens After I Fill Out the FAFSA?
When you fill out your FAFSA, your Student Aid Report (SAR) document will be sent to the office of Federal Student Aid, where it will take between three and five days to be processed. Although your SAR won’t immediately indicate how much financial aid you will be granted, if you added your email address when you submitted this form, you’ll receive the electronic file within a few days for your records.
Once this happens, you will receive a financial aid offer from the schools by which you have been accepted telling you how much aid you’re eligible for at that chool, including work-study opportunities and even loans, if applicable.
For more information about FAFSA, check out our guide to the most frequently asked FAFSA questions.