How To Apply For The FAFSA: Step-by-Step Instructions

By Craig Miller

01/3/2022



Here are step-by-step instructions on how to apply for the FAFSA.

Gather Your Information

First, gather all of your information and documents needed to submit an application. This includes your federal income tax returns, W2s, social security number, nontaxable income records, and financial/bank statements of your own and of your parents.

Create a Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID

Starting an application requires the creation of an FSA ID on the official website here. Each student has his/her own FSA ID which is used to sign off on applications and verify identity through the web and mobile application.

Fill in Student Information

Your FAFSA will ask for all types of student info, including your age, date of birth, demographics, and all of the schools you would like to attend.

Up to 10 schools can be listed on a FAFSA form. Listing all schools you are considering on your FAFSA application is very important. All schools listed on your FAFSA application will receive your FAFSA results, which is used to determine the amount of financial aid offered. A school will only offer aid upon acceptance to that school.

Be sure to specify whether or not you are a dependent. Independents are eligible for a larger share of federal money than dependents.

Enter Parent Information

In this section, answer all questions about your parents, including names and mailing addresses. Other questions may include state of resident, household size, and financial related questions (e.g. tax, untaxed income, asset allocation)

If you do not have your parents’ information, FAFSA provides an option to indicate these circumstances. However, financial aid staff may ask for more information to help you eventually calculate an Expected Family Contribution, such as evidence provided by a court, school counselor, or other parties that are in the best position to explain your situation.

Provide Your Financial Information

In this section, students are asked to enter their annual household gross income. Your household gross income will determine the number of funds received. Luckily, your FAFSA can plug directly into the IRS Data Retrieval tool to avoid having to plug in numbers and getting it wrong.

Review Your FAFSA

After entering all of your information, review your FAFSA carefully to check for errors. Ensure all numbers are accurate, all schools are listed and verify everything else.

Sign and Submit Your FAFSA Form

Once all of your information has been reviewed for accuracy, it is time to submit your application. Follow all of the prompts to electronically sign your application.

Once submitted, your application will be processed within 3-5 days with longer processing times for paper applications. Expect to receive a Student Aid Report (SAR), which will list all key FAFSA information to verify for accuracy. Pay close attention to your expected family contribution (EFC) and selected colleges.

In short, completing your FAFSA should take an hour or less. Once FAFSA information from prior years is accessible, then renewal applications take much less time.

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