The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is your key to financial aid for college. Completing the FAFSA online should take right around 30 minutes, and is 100% free. This application provides you with access to grants, loans, and work-study funds from the federal government. Remember to complete a FAFSA each year, as your financial situation may change. If you've already filed your taxes, you may be able to retrieve tax information straight from the IRS.
Types of Federal Student Aid
The Office of Federal Student Aid might be your best option to help pay for college, and aid you receive can be used to pay for school expenses as well. After completing your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you will receive an award letter from each school listed on your FAFSA explaining both federal and non-federal aid options offered by the school. If you plan to take out a loan, consider a federal student loan first, as these often have lower fixed interest rates than private student loans.
Get Your FSA ID
Creating your Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID is simple. You will need this ID to access U.S. Department of Education websites, such as studentaid.gov or StudentLoans.gov. You will also use this FSA ID every year when completing your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and while you are repaying any student loans you received. Your FSA ID is a legal signature and must be created and used only by you. Visit the Federal Student Aid website to get started.
How to Fill Out the FAFSA
The application is available in English and Spanish, and can be accessed through its official site, FAFSA.gov. As you continue through the application, you will be able to automatically skip questions not pertaining to you, check out your status immediately, and get online help. Be sure to have your social security number, your permanent resident card if you have one, any W-2 forms or records of money earned for the previous year, and your tax records available before you get started.
Using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool
If you or your parents have already completed a federal income tax return, you may be able to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to retrieve necessary information for your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The application will determine if you are eligible to use the tool. If you or your parents have filed electronically with the IRS within 2-3 weeks, or 6-8 weeks if filing a paper return, you should be eligible.
College is an important step in achieving your future goals, but there are many financial aid options to consider. If you will be receiving a federal student loan, it is important to understand what you are getting and to be a responsible borrower.