The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) 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—I’ve helped tons of my friends file it, and I can help you, too, with these FAFSA® application tips.
5 Tips for Completing the FAFSA®
1. Get to know the FAFSA® website
The government website https://studentaid.gov/h/apply-for-aid/fafsa is the official source for filling out and submitting your FAFSA®. Bookmark that page to so you can find it easily. And, as its name says, it’s a “Free Application.” Don’t trust any website that claims otherwise or asks for payment.
2. Gather your info
There’s certain information you’ll need to fill out the FAFSA®. It's best to have it with you before starting the application so you can finish in about 20 minutes. Have this information handy:
- Your Social Security number
- Your driver’s license number
- Your/your parents’ federal tax return
- If you’re claimed as a dependent, you’ll need your parents’ federal tax return.
- If you’re independent, use your own return.
- You’ll use your federal tax return from two years ago—if you’re applying for the 2022-2023 academic year, use your 2020 tax return.
- Any other documents showing reported income
- Schools you’ll be attending/you’re interested in attending
Here’s a useful guide to filling out and submitting the FAFSA®.
3. Have your FSA ID and account ready
If this is your first time filling out the FAFSA®, you'll need to create an account and a Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID. Save this ID and password in a safe place—it’s information you’ll need to log in, save your application, and submit your Renewal FAFSA® next year.
Your parents may also need to create an ID if they’re providing their information, so it might be a good idea to ask them to get one before you start on the application.
4. Have a reliable internet connection and a private area to fill out your application
You want to be able to start your FAFSA® application and finish it at the same time, so go somewhere with a stable connection and use a private computer (if at all possible).
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 one of the most important FAFSA® tips I can offer. The earlier you apply, the more financial aid you may be able to receive. Plus, you'll get this “to-do” item out of the way and go back to focusing on your studies.
More time equals more opportunities to make a plan to pay for college including more time to apply for scholarships.