The FAFSA® (Free Application for Student Aid) is an important part of paying for college. It’s also a big responsibility for students and can feel overwhelming at first. But don’t stress—file with these FAFSA® application tips.
5 Tips for completing the FAFSA®
1. Check out the FAFSA® website
The official and only source for completing the FAFSA® is the government website. Bookmark this page now so you can find it easily when it’s time for you to apply. The FAFSA® is free, so do not use any website that asks you to pay.
2. Create your FSA ID
Creating your FSA (Federal Student Aid) ID before you start to fill out the application can make your life a lot easier. Try to do this at least one week before you plan on completing the FAFSA® so that when you’re ready, your account is ready to go. Save your ID and password in a safe place—you’ll need them to log in, save your application, and submit your Renewal FAFSA® next year if you’ll still be in school.
Your parents/guardians will also need to create their own FSA IDs before filling out the FAFSA®. Students and parents get questions based on their role, eliminating the need for everyone to be on the computer at once. Parents also need their own IDs if they filed their taxes separately—this way, parent tax information can be pulled easily. When you make your ID, have them make theirs, too!
3. Understand how the FADDX uses your tax info
If you’ve applied for the FAFSA® before, you might remember all the tax forms and paperwork you had to gather. That’s now a thing of the past. The IRS Data Retrieval Tool (which used to dig through all of your tax information) is being replaced by the FADDX (FUTURE Act Direct Data eXchange). The FADDX simplifies the process by pulling most of student's financial information from the IRS behind the scenes. You’ll still need to know things like child support received and other asset information, but that’s it. All you’ll need to do is check a box that allows the FAFSA® to have this information.
4. Have a reliable Internet connection, a private device, and a private space to fill out your application
No one likes having their Internet drop or having someone need to use the computer when they’re in the middle of doing something. Make sure you have a stable Internet connection and a private computer, if possible, to work with.
Also, the FAFSA® includes a lot of personal information that should be kept private for your safety, so try filling out the application alone or in a place where others can’t easily view your screen.
5. Apply as early as possible
This is one of the most beneficial things you can do to get the most aid. The sooner you apply, the more financial aid you may be able to get. Plus, you’ll have more time to make a plan to pay for college and apply for scholarships.