FAFSA® 2024-25: Your first step to applying for free money for college

Filing your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) is the ONLY way to see if you qualify for federal financial aid—including money you don’t need to pay back.

Heads up!

The FAFSA® 2024-2025 application is now open, and you can go to studentaid.gov to complete it.

What is the FAFSA®?

The FAFSA® is a free online application for financial aid eligibility for college. It’s used by schools to put together your federal student aid package for one year of college. This package can include grants for college, work-study, federal student loans, and even state and school financial aid.

While financial aid is not the same as student loans, you must first complete the FAFSA® form to apply for a federal student loan. Completing the FAFSA® online is convenient—and it can make your financial aid search easier.

Grad students can also apply for aid with the FAFSA®. Learn more about graduate financial aid.

Want to know more about how the FAFSA® works and why it’s super important to submit yours? Read our blog article.

What’s new about the FAFSA® in 2024-25?

The FAFSA® is getting a makeover! This year the federal government will be rolling out a redesigned form and changing some ways your aid is calculated. Here’s what to know:

It's simpler

There will be WAY fewer questions. You can also have your tax info imported directly from the government, instead of entering it all yourself.

There's a name change

Expected Family Contribution (EFC) will now be known as Student Aid Index (SAI).

The formula is getting updated

The SAI will use a new calculation to determine how much financial aid you qualify for.

The application will open later

The FAFSA® for the 2024-25 school year will be available in December, instead of the usual date of October 1. See application deadlines on studentaid.gov.

Read our blog article for a closer look at all the FAFSA® changes.

How to file the FAFSA®

Once you’re ready to begin the FAFSA®, follow these basic steps:

Get your info ready

You'll need your Social Security number, your tax information, and your parent('s) financial information.

Go to studentaid.gov

It’s the official government site and the only place you can get your FSA ID and officially file your FAFSA®. Don’t get scammed into paying to file on another site!

Submit your FAFSA® as early as possible

Some aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, so apply as early as you can to get the most free money for school.

For the 2024-25 school year, you can submit the FAFSA® starting in December

Head over to our YouTube channel and watch our HACKED series for plenty of tips to help you file your FAFSA® and navigate college financial aid.

Plus, check out our Campus Underground podcast with insider tips from real college students, our SoundMind playlist designed to help boost your brainpower while studying, and more!

Learn how to answer 2024-25 FAFSA® questions like a pro

Need help completing your FAFSA®? Our FAFSA® guide is your go-to resource. We’ll walk you through the FAFSA® step by step and help you answer each question correctly.

For expert help, call FAFSA® support at 800-433-3243 (800-730-8913 TDD). You may also want to talk to a financial or legal professional.

Join our FAFSA® webinar series

Get expert tips and hacks on planning and paying for school, completing the FAFSA®, finding scholarships, and more.

The first step to finding the money you need for college: Completing the FAFSA®

View webinar recording here

Before applying for financial aid with FAFSA®, go after free money

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Frequently asked questions about the FAFSA®

To file your FAFSA®, first gather all of the documents you’ll need to reference:

  • Your Social Security number 
  • Permission from the family member who completed a tax return if you’d like to import information directly from the IRS. If you prefer not to import it, then you’ll need to provide other financial info
  • Bank statements
  • Information about your family’s investments (real estate, money market funds, stocks, etc.)
  • An FSA ID for yourself, and for one or both of your parents. (FSA IDs can be obtained at studentaid.gov.)

When you apply for financial aid, you’ll provide personal demographic information, as well as financial information like bank statements and information on your family’s investments.

This financial information is used to determine your Student Aid Index (SAI). Your SAI is an index number that colleges use to determine how much federal financial aid you’re eligible to receive. Your SAI is calculated according to a formula established by law and the information from your FAFSA®. 

Your eligibility for aid depends on your Student Aid Index (SAI), your year in school, your enrollment status, and the cost of attendance (COA) at the school you'll be attending. The COA is the estimated cost to attend for one academic year and, if you attend at least half time, can include tuition, books, supplies, transportation, room and board, and other educationrelated expenses.


December 31, 2023
Open date: The earliest you can file the FAFSA® for the 2024-2025 academic year

The federal government has not announced the exact opening date yet. Check studentaid.gov for updates. 

June 30, 2024
The federal deadline for filing the FAFSA® for the 2023-2024 academic year

States and colleges have their own FAFSA® deadlines. Be sure to check the FAFSA® deadline for each college you’re applying to. You can check your state's deadline on the federal student aid website.

While it may seem like you're getting money from the FAFSA®, it's actually just a form and process to get federal student aid, not a student loan. If you receive federal student loans as part of your financial aid offer, you would have to repay them.

That’s a no-brainer! Submitting your FAFSA® is THE most important thing you can do when paying for school. Because each year, the government sets aside around $150 billion in federal aid for college students. And not just federal student loans,—we’re talking about grants, scholarships, and work-study. To qualify for any of that aid, you need to fill out the FAFSA® form.

Sallie Mae’s How America Pays for College 2023 report shows that 71% of families filled out the FAFSA® for academic year 2022-23. The biggest reason for not filing? Among families who didn’t submit it, 29% think their income is too high to qualify for any aid. That couldn’t be further from the truth: nearly everyone who submits qualifies for something! This means nearly a third of families could be missing out on thousands of dollars in financial aid. 

It’s not just federal aid we’re talking about. Schools use the FAFSA® to put together their financial aid packages and some states use it to determine eligibility for state aid. For Tennessee students, for example, the FAFSA® is used to determine their eligibility for the Tennessee Promise program, which provides two years of tuition-free attendance at a Tennessee community or technical college. There’s also the Tennessee HOPE Scholarship, which is funded from the net proceeds of the state lottery and awarded to entering freshmen who are enrolled at an eligible post-secondary institution.

It’s not. Yes, tax returns are used in the application, so income is important. But there are other variables, like how many dependents you have. Regardless of your income, if you or your student is enrolled in a higher education institution, filling out the FAFSA® when it opens should be a priority every year.

You'll want to file your FAFSA® on the open date or as close to it as possible. Why? Because some aid is awarded on a first come, first served basis.

States and colleges have their own deadlines for applying for state and institutional financial aid. Visit your school’s website to find out their deadlines and visit the Federal Student Aid website to view specific state FAFSA® deadlines—especially if you’re applying to colleges in different states. If you’re a returning FAFSA® filer, you may remember your school and state deadlines, but make sure to double-check in case any timelines have changed. 

Another FAFSA® myth is that you only have to fill it out once to be eligible for financial aid in college. Yes, you need to complete it as a high school senior, but you also have to file it again every year of college and even graduate school. Submitting a Renewal FAFSA® each year is the only way to remain eligible for federal student aid, and the amount of aid can vary year-over-year.

Before you start the filing process, you and your parents will want to obtain your FSA IDs at studentaid.gov. You and your parents will also want to gather your Social Security number, bank statements, and any documents showing untaxed income.   

Having this info ready will help complete the process as quickly as possible—and the good news is that most of your information will be saved when you return to file the FAFSA® next year. Keep in mind that you and your parents will have to log in separately to complete your individual portion of the FAFSA®. 

Take your time filling out the FAFSA® and make sure the information you're entering is correct, too. Some of the most common FAFSA® mistakes include leaving parts of the application blank, entering the wrong Social Security number, and completely forgetting to sign the application. It's crucial to pay attention to detail; you could jeopardize your potential financial aid if you make mistakes.

The good news is, there are free tools and resources to help, like this FAFSA® handbook. If you run into any roadblocks filling out the FAFSA®, don't hesitate to ask for help. You can also visit FAFSA Help on the Federal Student Aid website.

And last, but certainly not least, you should never pay to file the FAFSA®; it’s free on the federal student aid site. Be careful about sites phishing for your FAFSA® information. The first “F” in FAFSA® stands for “Free!” 


My family’s income is too high to qualify for federal financial aid.


Student and family income isn’t the only factor that the government uses to decide if a student qualifies for federal financial aid. The only way to know for sure if you’ll qualify is to fill out the FAFSA®.


My family has money saved for college, so we won’t get any federal financial aid.


Savings might not be a major factor when determining aid eligibility, as there are allowances for savings and assets.


I’m only attending college part-time, so I won’t be eligible for federal financial aid.


Financial aid is available for part-time students. Talk to the financial aid offices of the colleges you’re interested in attending about aid for part-time students.

footnote Sallie Mae does not provide, and these materials are not meant to convey, financial, tax, or legal advice. Consult your own financial advisor, tax advisor, or attorney about your specific circumstances.

footnote FAFSA® is a registered service mark of U.S. Department of Education, Federal Student Aid.

footnote External links and third-party references are provided for informational purposes only. Sallie Mae cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information provided by any third parties and assumes no responsibility for any errors or omissions contained therein. Any copyrights, trademarks, and/or service marks used in these materials are the property of their respective owners.