The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
"The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)" submitted by SchoolGrantsfor Editorial Team and last updated on Monday 9th January 2012
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the only application required to apply for federal student aid. The Department processes more than 13 million FAFSA applications each year, the vast majority of which are received and processed between January and August. FAFSA is a mandatory form that students and parents fill out when pursuing Federal student aid. The official document used by every college and university to determine eligibility for Federal Student Aid. A copy of this document is often required by a scholarship program.
Once you have determined the total cost of your education, you will need to fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA is used to determine your eligibility for federal loans, college work-study programs, scholarships and other forms of financial aid. You can apply online at fafsa.ed.gov or submit a paper FAFSA. In order to sign the application electronically, you will need a Personal Identification Number (PIN). Both you and your parents can obtain a PIN from the U.S. Department of Education at pin.ed.gov. If you are a dependent student, both you and your parents must sign the FAFSA prior to submission. When you apply online you may receive your Student Aid Report (SAR) in as little as five days. SAR summarizes the information you provide on the FAFSA.
To determine the EFC, each student and his or her family must complete a FAFSA, either in paper form or online at http://www.FAFSA.ed.gov. The Department ascertains that all required information has been provided and verifies the data with several federal agencies, including the Social Security Administration, the Selective Service System, and the Immigration and Naturalization Service. When necessary, applicants are asked to provide additional information and to correct inconsistencies.
After the Department processes the FAFSA, the student receives a Student Aid Report (SAR) showing the expected family contribution. At the same time, each institution identified by the applicant receives the same information in an electronic document called the Institutional Student Information Record (ISIR). In general, if the EFC is less than the cost of attendance as determined by the school, the student is eligible for need-based federal student aid. Students who are not eligible for need based federal aid may be eligible for unsubsidized student loans.
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, is what it says—a free federal form. Get free help filling out the FAFSA by attending a local College. The FAFSA provides all the student information necessary to receive federal Pell Grants, federal student loans, and federal campus-based aid. Your first step to getting money for college is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. Some financial aid offered by your state or college may require you to submit additional information or applications. Apply early and meet deadlines because financial aid funds are often limited.
Don’t wait until you or your parents have filed a tax return to submit the FAFSA. Instead, get your FAFSA in early using estimated income figures based on last year’s return or payroll stubs. (If your estimates are significantly higher or lower than your actual numbers, your EFC may change and your financial aid offers may be revised.)
FAFSA asks for information
The FAFSA asks for information about the value of certain assets, as of the day you fill out the form, including:
- mutual funds
- money market funds
- real estate investments
- education savings accounts owned by your parents (or you, if you’re an independent student), including Coverdell savings accounts, 529 college savings plans and the refund value of 529 prepaid tuition plans
FAFSA doesn’t count the value of:
your family home or farm annuities life insurance plans any non-education IRAs, 401(k), Keogh or other retirement plans (though you must report contributions for 2009 to any tax-deferred pension or savings plan).
Which parent’s financial information should you use on your FAFSA?
- It doesn’t matter who claimed you as a tax exemption. For divorced or separated parents, give answers for the parent you lived with more during the past 12 months. (If you didn’t live with one parent more than the other, then answer for the parent who provided more support during the past 12 months.)
- If your parent is widowed or single, answer the questions about that parent.
- If your parent has remarried as of the day you complete the FAFSA, answer the questions about that parent and the person your parent married (your stepparent). If you don’t know where your parents are or if you left home due to irreconcilable differences, let your high school counselor or college financial aid office know.
For the FAFSA, the following people are not your parents unless they’ve adopted you:
- foster parents
- legal guardians
- older brothers or sisters
- For the FAFSA’s question about education level, answer for your biological or adoptive parents.
Financial situation changes after submit FAFSA
If your financial situation changes after you submit your FAFSA, contact your financial aid office. Ask if your college has a formal process to handle appeals and be prepared to provide supporting documentation. Don’t be shy—it’s your future!
The process of documenting
Most financial aid awards are considered “new” each school year, so you’ll need to submit the FAFSA each year. Use your PIN to find your previous year’s FAFSA at www.fafsa.ed.gov starting January 1. Simply update any information that has changed, such as your income or family size; complete any blank areas; and review your list of colleges.
You may continue to get any other state or federal aid you received the year before as long as you still meet the requirements. In most cases, this includes making satisfactory academic progress, so be sure you understand your school’s policy.
Applying for federal student aid grants, work-study and loans is FREE! Why pay a third party for help with the FAFSA? Help in completing the FAFSA is available from our office for free and there are no fees of any kind assessed by the government when you submit a FAFSA.
Save all records and materials used to complete your FAFSA. Make a copy of your paper FAFSA or print the summary page of your FAFSA on the Web data and your confirmation page. You might need them later to prove the information you reported was accurate.
The process of documenting the information you provided on the FAFSA is called "verification." If your application is selected for verification and you do not provide the documents requested on time, you will not receive federal student aid and you might not receive aid from other non-federal sources. More details: Important Documents to File: Important Documents to File - Collect Your financial records and other documents needed to apply FAFSA
Process for new applicants
Apply between Jan. 1, 2010, and June 30, 2011. To determine your eligibility for federal student aid, you need to complete the FAFSA. You may also need to complete an additional application in order to be considered for financial aid from your state or the school you’re interested in attending.
How do I sign my application?
If you’re in FAFSA on the Web, a separate screen will appear when you select the option to apply for a PIN. You will be given the option of instantly receiving your PIN online, having it e-mailed to you immediately, or having it sent to you via postal mail (7–10 days). If you choose to have it displayed on the screen, you can sign your FAFSA right then and there. If you choose to have your PIN e-mailed to you or sent by postal mail, you’ll need to save your FAFSA on the Web and sign with your PIN when you receive it. Or, you can print a “signature page,” sign and mail it to the address indicated on the page. You can also select the option to process the application without a signature. If you select this option, you will be mailed a paper SAR that you must sign and mail back to us for processing. The process can take two or more weeks. This option is not recommended because it is the most time-consuming.
What if I want to add or change schools later?
Using your PIN, you can go to www.fafsa.ed.gov and select “Add or Delete a School Code” to make changes online or you can call the Federal Student Aid Information Center 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243). If you call, you’ll need your Data Release Number (DRN), which is located on your FAFSA on the Web Confirmation page and on your SAR.
FAFSA results after your FAFSA has been processed
You will receive your SAR by e-mail within 3–5 days after your FAFSA has been processed, if you provided an e-mail address when you applied. This e-mail will contain a secure link so you can access your SAR online. If you have a “junk” folder or “spam” folder in your e-mail fi les, check it. The e-mail from us might be delivered there instead of to your inbox. We encourage you to add our e-mail address, Fede...@cpsemail.ed.gov, to your e-mail address book to help avoid delivery problems. The e-mail you receive will look like the one below.
You will receive a paper SAR by mail within 7–10 days after your FAFSA has been processed, if you do not provide an e-mail address when you apply. Whether you apply online or by paper, we will automatically send your data electronically to the schools you listed on your FAFSA.
If you’re eligible for federal student financial aid, the school(s) listed on your FAFSA (who have also offered you admission) will send you an award letter. e award letter tells you the type of financial aid you are eligible to receive from federal, state and institutional sources and how much you may receive.
Award letter is combination of aid is your financial aid package. Review each award letter very carefully and compare how much aid you can receive at each school. Once you accept a school’s award letter, sign it and return it to the school for processing.
Reapply each year
Most financial aid awards are considered “new” each school year, so you’ll need to submit the FAFSA each year. Use your PIN to find your previous year’s FAFSA at www.fafsa.ed.gov starting January 1. Simply update any information that has changed, such as your income or family size; complete any blank areas; and review your list of colleges. You may continue to get any other state or federal aid you received the year before as long as you still meet the requirements. In most cases, this includes making satisfactory academic progress, so be sure you understand your school’s policy.
FAFSA for hearing impaired
If you’re hearing impaired, call TTY 800.730.8913 to learn more about federal student aid, or listen to Audio Highlights on the Web at www. studentaid.ed.gov/ audioguide. The FAFSA and other publications are available online through the use of a screen reader and in Braille by calling toll-free 800.433.3243 (the Braille FAFSA is for reference only and cannot be submitted).
Free Help Completing the FAFSA
On the Web
www.FederalStudentAid.ed.gov/completefafsa This Web site explains how to complete the FAFSA and the purpose of FAFSA questions. or click on the Live Help link at the top of most application pages during business hours for help with the paper FAFSA.
Schools listed on your FAFSA will automatically receive your FAFSA results electronically. You can list up to four schools on a paper FAFSA and up to 10 schools on FAFSA on the Web.
Ask your school for help, attend your school’s financial aid night or plan to attend a free College Goal Sunday workshop in January or February. Many workshops have staff who speak Spanish and other languages. Visit www.collegegoalsundayusa.org for dates and locations.
You must comply with Selective Service registration. If you’re a male aged 18 through 25 and you have not registered you can, at the same time you complete your FAFSA, give the Selective Service System permission to register you by means of the FAFSA. You can also register online at www.sss.gov or call 1-847-688-6888. TTY users can call 1-847-688-2567. Call toll-free FAFSA Help Desk at 800.433.3243 Monday through Friday up to 9 p.m. Pacific Time and extended hours on the weekend (TTY 800.730.8913)
Federal Student Aid Information Center (FSAIC)
- The FSAIC staff will answer your federal student aid questions for FREE, and provide you with:
- Information about federal student aid programs,
- Help completing the FAFSA,
- Help in making corrections to your Student Aid Report (SAR), which contains your application results,
- Information about the process of determining financial need and awarding aid, and
- Information about your federal student loans
1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243) TTY users can call 1-800-730-8913. Callers in locations without access to 1-800 numbers may call 319-337-5665 (this is not a toll-free number).
You also can use an automated response system at this number to find out if your FAFSA has been processed and to request a copy of your SAR. Or you can write to the FSAIC at the address at the bottom of this page. Direct Loan Servicing 1-800-848-0979 | TTY users can call 1-800-848-0983. Direct Loan Consolidation 1-800-557-7392 | TTY users can call 1-800-557-7395. Inspector General Hotline.
To report student aid fraud
Know More Details About FAFSA:
- Important Note Before You Apply For FAFSA
- How FAFSA Processed by Central Processing System (CPS)
- FAFSA4caster online tool to estimate of your eligibility that the FAFSA asks
- Submit FAFSA For Federal Pell Grants
- Determine Dependency Status To Submit FAFSA
- FAFSA for adult non-traditional student
- How FAFSA determined
- FAFSA applicant cosigner/co-endorser/coborrower
- Academic Level Standard and Academic Status For FAFSA
- Side-by-Side Comparison of All Federal Student Aid (Loans & Grants)
- Federal Grants and Loans For Military and Their Dependents
- FAFSA For Federal Stafford Loans
- Enrollment to Submit FAFSA
- How To Fill Financial Gap (Unmet Need) To Cover Your Actual Need
- Federal Student Loans vs. Private Loans
- FAFSA To Get Financial aid packages
- Get Help From Financial aid office (FAO) for determination of financial need
- For FAFSA, EFC is a preliminary estimate
- FAFSA For Dependents, Homeless, Orphans, and Foster Youth or Wards of the Court
- Submit FAFSA Without Parental Information
- Important Documents to File
- FAQ For FAFSA
- Loan Assumptions For Financial Reality Check To Apply FAFSA
- Financial Aid Packet for the completion of FAFSA
- Financial need to determine your eligibility for financial aid
- Complete the FAFSA For Federal direct student loan (FDSL)
- Financial Aid Timeline and Checklist For Fall, Winter & Summer Spring
- Parent’s financial information on FAFSA
- Financial aid administrator (FAA) Access to CPS to Enter FAFSA or Renewal FAFSA
- Federal Loan Counseling For Undergraduate, Graduate/Professional Students