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FAFSA 101: 5 tips to help you file the FAFSA

College • October 15, 2018 • Bryana Blanco


What you’ll learn

  • What you’ll need to complete the FAFSA
  • How to prepare to fill out the application


The FAFSA application is a big responsibility for students and a sensitive form to fill out. But don’t stress—I’ve helped tons of my friends file it, and I can help you, too!

Here are some tips and tricks to help you file the FAFSA

  1. Know the FAFSA Website

    https://fafsa.ed.gov/ is the only website that gives you access to the FAFSA application. Bookmark the page so it’s easily accessible. Remember the application is completely free. Don’t trust any website that claims otherwise or asks for payment.

  2. Gather your info

    There is certain information you’ll need to fill out the form. It's best to have it with you before starting the application so you can complete the form within 20 minutes. This information includes:

    • Your social security number
    • Your driver’s license number
    • Federal tax return form
      • If you’re claimed as a dependent, you’ll need your parents’ federal tax returns. If you are independent use your return form information. When it comes to what federal tax form to use, you’ll need your return from two years ago. If you’re applying for 2019-2020, use your 2017 return.
    • Any other document of reported income
    • Schools you will be attending/interested in attending
  3. Have a FSA ID and account ready

    If this is your first time filling out a FAFSA application, you’ll need to create an account and a Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID. Save this ID and password in a safe place as this is the information you will need to log in or save your application.

    Your parents may also need to create one if they are providing their information, so it might be a good idea to ask them to create one before you get started on the application.

  4. Have a reliable internet connection and a private area to fill out your form

    You want to be able to start your application and finish it at the same time, so go somewhere with a stable internet connection and use a reliable laptop or desktop.

    Also, you’ll be using personal information that should be kept private for your safety, so try filling out the form alone or in a place where others can’t easily view your screen.

  5. Apply early

    This is the most important tip I can offer. The earlier you apply, the more aid you can receive. Plus, you’ll get it out of the way quickly and can go back to focusing on your studies.

    Knowing how much aid you qualify for early on gives you the opportunity to apply for scholarships, if needed. More time equals more opportunities to make a plan to pay for college.

Happy FAFSA!

I hope this information helps you have a simple FAFSA season and gives you a better understanding of how aid is determined for students.


Bryana is studying to become a nurse and loves her job as a Residential Advisor. She is a 2016 Bridging the Dream Scholarship winner.


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Sallie Mae does not provide financial, tax, or legal advice and the information contained in this article does not constitute tax, legal, or financial advice. Sallie Mae does not make any claims, promises, or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained in this article. Readers should consult their own attorneys or other tax advisors regarding any financial strategies mentioned in this article. These materials are for informational purposes only and do not necessarily reflect the views or endorsement of Sallie Mae.