College  |  November 23, 2021  |  Bryana Blanco

FAFSA 101: 5 FAFSA application tips

What you’ll learn
  • FAFSA tips on what you’ll need to complete the application
  • 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, with these FAFSA application tips.

Here are 5 tips for completing the FAFSA application

1. Know the FAFSA Website 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 the 2021-2022 academic year, use your 2019 tax 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, save your application, and submit your FAFSA renewal next year. 

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 FAFSA 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 one of the most important FAFSA tips I can offer. The earlier you apply, the more financial 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.

Apply for financial aid the fast, easy way

Sallie MaeSM and Frank have simplified the FAFSA® –and it's free!

• Takes just 7 minutes, vs 1 hour on
• Guides you through step-by-step
• Almost all who apply get some kind of aid

By clicking this link, you’ll go to our trusted partner Frank’s site. Any information you provide will be shared with Frank and will be covered under the terms of the Frank privacy policy.

Happy FAFSA!

I hope these FAFSA tips help you fill out the FAFSA and give you a better understanding of how aid is determined for students.

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. Reproduction without explicit permission is prohibited.