Applying for Student Aid - Filling Out the FAFSA

The FAFSA, or the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is your primary method of applying for federal student grants and loans and work-study programs. Keep reading to learn where to find it and how to fill it out.

Obtain a FAFSA Application

Applications are available in electronic or paper-based forms. The electronic version, found at the Federal Student Aid website, allows students to submit and track their applications online. The College Board reports that filing an application online reduces the processing time by one to two weeks. You should only complete the online FAFSA application through the government's official website.

You can also fill out the paper application, which can be downloaded or ordered from the federal aid website. The paper-based version is also available through a high school's counseling center or career center, at local libraries or in financial aid offices at local colleges.

Compile Required Information

Unless you're completely independent, you will be using your parents' income tax information. Their income tax information will be one factor considered by those processing the application to determine the type of financial aid you can receive and how large an amount you qualify for.

Personal information and information to obtain from parents include:

  • Social Security Number
  • Driver's License
  • Most Current W-2 Forms and Other Financial Records of Money Earned
  • Most Current Federal Income Tax Return
  • Most Current Untaxed Income Records
  • Most Recent Bank Statements
  • Most Recent Business and Investment Mortgage Information
  • Alien Registration Number or Permanent Residence Card (For non-U.S. Citizens)

Submit the FAFSA

Some federal financial aid programs are first-come, first served, so you'll need to send in the application as soon as possible. Generally, you can apply anytime between January and the end of June. You'll need to apply every year in order to be eligible for financial aid. As soon as the application is processed, students will receive an Expected Family Contribution report, which is used to determine the amount of aid students can receive.

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