The FAFSA (short for “Free Application for Federal Student Aid”) is a federal form that nearly all colleges and universities use to help determine how much financial aid you and your family are eligible for. It’s created and coordinated by the U.S. Department of Education, and it is safe and secure. It asks questions about how much money your family made (income) and how much money your family paid in taxes for the previous year. You can learn more about it and fill it out online.
Submit your information early! The FAFSA opens every year on October 1. The earlier you complete the form, the more funds there are to qualify for.
- Create a Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID. Each student, and one parent of each dependent student, will need an FSA ID to complete the FAFSA process on fafsa.gov
- Use this FAFSA On The Web Worksheet. It can help you gather the information you need to fill out the FAFSA online and anticipate the types of questions you’ll be asked.
- Check out the FAFSA4Caster, which gives you a free early estimate of your eligibility for federal student aid. This information helps families plan ahead for college.
In order to help students get started early, the FAFSA is available in October each year. So if you want to start or continue in college in September the following year, you can start filling out your FAFSA 11 months in advance. This can help you better plan financially for college, as you’ll get your financial aid information sooner than before.
Technically the FAFSA isn’t due until June 30th of the year you plan to attend college. However, colleges and universities have earlier deadlines for priority consideration, often between December 1st of the previous year and March of the year you plan to start school. It pays to complete and file your FAFSA as early as possible.
What Information Does It Use?
The FAFSA can directly import your family’s previous income and tax information from the IRS. This means that instead of having to guess what your income and taxes will be in the current year (as it used to), the FAFSA now uses what they really were in the previous year.
Where Can I Go for More Information?
- A college’s financial aid office is your best bet. If you’re thinking of attending a school, it’s okay to reach out and just make sure you’re providing all the right information at the right time.
- Your high school counselor should also be able to help. Similar to college financial aid advisers, they should know about any changes to the process or form and can help explain things to you and your family.