7 Things You Need Before You Fill Out the FAFSA
If you need financial aid to help you pay for college, it's important that you complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). The good news? The FAFSA is simpler than ever! Did you know that, on average, it only takes 21minutes complete? That's less time than it takes to watch an episode of your favorite TV program, so no excuses about not having the time. Record that TV show and watch it later.
The FAFSA becomes available on January 1, at 12 a.m. Central Time. You can fill it out for FREE on the official government site, fafsa.gov. To speed up the FAFSA process, get prepared early. Here is what you'll need to fill out the FAFSA:
- Your Federal Student Aid PIN* — In order to sign your FAFSA electronically, you'll need a Federal Student Aid PIN. You can help to prevent processing delays by getting a PIN before you begin the FAFSA. Find out how to get a PINand what to do if you forgot your PIN. It only takes a minute.
- Your social security number* — If you don't know it, it can be found on your social security card. If you don't have access to that, it may be on your birth certificate or permanent resident card. If you don't have one of those, or don't know where it is, ask your parent or legal guardian. If you're a dependent student, you'll need their help with portions of the FAFSA anyway. If you are not a U.S. citizen, but meet Federal Student Aid's basic eligibility requirements, you'll need your Alien Registration Number.
- Your driver's license number — If you don't have a driver's license, then don't worry about this step.
- Your tax records* — Use income records for the tax year prior to the academic yearfor which you are applying: so if you are filling out the 2016–17 FAFSA, you will need 2015 tax information. If you haven't filed your taxes yet, you can always estimate the amounts using your prior year tax return, just make sure to update your FAFSA once you file your taxes. Once you file your taxes, you may be able to automatically import your tax information into the FAFSA using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.
- Records of your untaxed income* — This includes a whole bunch of variables that may or may not apply to you, like child support received, interest income and veterans non-education benefits. Parents can find specific details here. Students can find details here.
- Records of all your assets (money)* — This includes savings and checking account balances, as well as investments like stocks and bonds and real estate.
- List of the school(s) you are interested in attending — The schools you list on your FAFSA will automatically receive your FAFSA results electronically. They will use your FAFSA information to determine the types and amounts of financial aid you may receive. You can list up to 10 schools on your FAFSA. If you're applying to more than 10 schools, you can add more later. Be sure to list any school you're considering, even if you're not sure yet.
*If you're a dependent student, you will need this information for your parent(s) as well.
Still have questions?
We're here to help. Connect with us: StudentAid.gov/social.
Nicole Callahan is a Digital Engagement Strategist at the U.S. Department of Education's office of Federal Student Aid.