Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
You must submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) if you want to apply for federal and state financial aid. Many colleges and universities, especially public institutions, also require the FAFSA. You must submit the FAFSA every year that you want aid.
Obtaining a FAFSA
The FAFSA is available in several formats, including online, PDF and paper versions.
FAFSA on the Web offers several benefits, including:
- You will get your Student Aid Report (SAR) sooner than with the paper or PDF forms.
- Your FAFSA will be more accurate, since the FAFSA on the Web has built-in edit checks to catch simple errors and you avoid errors introduced by the OCR process.
- You will save the federal government money by reducing their processing costs.
- The online FAFSA allows you to list up to ten colleges, while the paper FAFSA has space only for four colleges.
- You may be able to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to prefill the answers to some questions on the FAFSA by transferring data from your federal income tax returns. This will save time and may reduce the likelihood that your FAFSA will be selected for verification.
PDF format FAFSAs are available in black and white and color versions in both English and Spanish. These versions of the FAFSA may be printed using the free Adobe PDF Reader software. Students may also obtain up to three paper copies by calling 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3242) or 1-391-337-5665. (Hearing impaired individuals should call the TTY number 1-800-730-8913.) Paper FAFSAs can be ordered.
FinAid’s Financial Aid Estimation Form may be used to calculate your EFC and an estimate of your eligibility for financial aid. This may help you understand a bit about how the federal need analysis system works. There is also a QuickEFC calculator that uses much fewer questions to yield a ballpark estimate of your EFC. Like FinAid’s EFC calculator, the US Department of Education’s FAFSA4CASTER tool also provides an early estimate of financial aid eligibility.
Beginning in 2016, the FAFSA can be submitted as early as October 1st. Financial aid applications, such as the FAFSA, should be submitted as soon as possible after the date they open each year. You cannot submit the form before this deadline because the need analysis process uses your financial information from the prior tax year when calculating eligibility for the upcoming award year.
To meet the deadlines for most states you should submit the form no later than March 1, with February 15 being ideal. Do not wait until you’ve filed your income tax returns with the IRS. You should either estimate your income – you’ll have a chance to correct errors later – or complete your tax returns early.