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How to Fill out the FAFSA

FAFSA is the KEY!

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the key that opens the door to financial aid. It serves as the application for most financial aid from federal and state programs as well as from colleges and universities. Even if you are not sure that you will need financial aid, we recommend that you fill out a FAFSA anyway - it's free.

Prepare and Submit

Prepare and submit your FAFSA as soon as possible after October 1 of the year prior to your college start date. For example, if you plan to attend college beginning in the fall of 2018, you may submit your FAFSA after October 1, 2017.

Confused? Use the FAFSA WHEN? Calculator to see during which period you can file your FAFSA and what tax return year to use based on when you will attend.


The quickest and most accurate way to file the FAFSA is online. In contrast to a paper copy, the online form displays only the data entry fields you need to complete. You also receive directions as you need them.

What you Need

To complete the FAFSA you will need your parents' federal tax return (or your own if you are an independent student). There is also a FAFSA on the Web WorksheetNew window icon (En Espanol) that you can download. While the worksheets are slightly different from the FAFSA itself, they may help you gather all the information you may need. Read about 12 Common FAFSA Mistakes, and, here are some tips for your parents to review.


Beginning in May 2015, the United States Department of Education replaceed the Financial Aid PIN with the FSA ID. The FSA ID consists of a username and password and replaced the PIN for students, parents, and loan borrowers.

If you are a new user, you will be asked to fill out a registration form for your FSA ID. If you are a user with an existing PIN, upon logging on you will be sent directly to the FSA ID site and asked for your PIN number. If your information matches the information they have on file, your account will be linked directly to an FSA ID account. Please note in order to have your current information link to your FSA ID, you must log on and go through the registration process.New window icon.

If you prefer to fill out a paper copy of the FAFSA, you can obtain one by calling the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID.

And Then...

The FAFSA may not be the only form required to receive an award letter from a school. You must also complete the college admissions process. Check with each of the colleges and universities you listed on your FAFSA to determine their specific requirements.

If you filed your FAFSA electronically, you will receive an electronic Student Aid Report (SAR) within a few days of submitting your completed FAFSA. (SAR results may take three weeks if you file a paper FAFSA.) The SAR is the result of your FAFSA. Read it immediately and follow any directions. The schools you listed on the FAFSA will also receive your results.

Filing the FAFSA

Step by step:

  1. Use the FAFSA WHEN? Calculator to see when to file
  2. Complete the FAFSA on the Web Worksheet New window icon
  3. Register for your FSA IDNew window icon.
  4. Read 11 Common FAFSA Mistakes
  5. Use the FAFSA Transfer Module