FAFSA on the Web
This web site explains how to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). It explains the purpose of the FAFSA questions. This site also contains a section that provides answers to several frequently asked questions (FAQs). If you have additional questions about federal student aid or how to complete an electronic or paper application, call the Federal Student Aid Information Center (FSAIC) at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243) or contact your financial aid administrator (FAA). You can also go to the federal student aid web site at www.studentaid.ed.gov.
Complete the FAFSA in the following ways:
- Online (FAFSA on the Web) at www.fafsa.ed.gov
- On paper
In some cases, you can apply directly through your school. Check with the financial aid administrator at your school of interest to check if they will assist you with your application. If you are using either the FAFSA online version or the paper version, use the instructions on this website as a guide to complete the application process. Throughout this document, the term "FAFSA" refers to both versions unless otherwise specified.
Using a PIN to Sign Your Application
If you apply electronically on FAFSA on the Web or Renewal FAFSA on the Web, use a PIN to sign your application. If you are a dependent student (determined through a series of questions), your parents can use the PIN to sign the application. If you and/or your parent do not have a PIN, get one before you complete the application. To get a PIN before you begin the application process, apply at www.pin.ed.gov. Leave your e-mail address here to get the link to the web page where you will get your PIN.
FAFSA on the Web applicants do not need a PIN to apply. You can opt to use a signature page, however using a PIN make the process much quicker. If you apply without a PIN, but provide your e-mail address on your FAFSA you will be linked to a page to receive a PIN. If you do not provide your e-mail address, you will receive your PIN by mail.
Paper FAFSA filers can provide their e-mail addresses for the current academic year by completing the appropriate question on the FAFSA.
If You Applied Previously
If you applied for aid last year, you do not have to complete the entire FAFSA this year. Instead, you can use a Renewal FAFSA, which is available at www.fafsa.ed.gov online and on paper. The Renewal FAFSA is pre-filled with prior information. The applicant will change or add information as needed. Certain renewal applicants will automatically receive PINs, including:
- Graduate students and fifth-year undergraduates
- Students who have previously filed on FAFSA on the Web
- Students whose schools request for PINs instead of hard copy renewal forms.
Students who meet the above three requirements and provide a valid e-mail address will receive an e-mail with the link to their PIN. If they did not provide an e-mail address or the address is invalid, the PIN is sent by mail. That PIN is for the Renewal Application. To get more information on how to use the PIN, go to http://www.pin.ed.gov.
Why Complete a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)?
The Department of Education uses the information provided on your FAFSA to determine your eligibility for financial aid. Many states and schools also use the FAFSA data to award aid from their programs. Some states and schools will require additional forms. Remember, completing the FAFSA is free.
Federal Student Aid Programs
Your financial aid package is awarded by each school you have been accepted to. Federal student aid programs are included in the package. Not all schools participate in every program administered by the U.S. Department of Education. Programs through the U.S. Department of Education provide over $67 billion a year to help millions of students and their families pay for college.
- Direct Stafford Loans and FFEL Stafford Loans: Direct Stafford Loans and FFEL Stafford Loans are student loans are available to both undergraduate and graduate students. If your school participates in the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program, the federal government provides the funds for your Direct Stafford Loan through your school. If your school participates in the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program, a private lender provides the funds for your FFEL Stafford Loan. First-year undergraduates are eligible for loans up to $5,500. Amounts increase for subsequent years of study, with higher amounts for graduate students. The interest rate for unsubsidized Stafford Loans disbursed after July 1, 2006 is fixed at 6.8%. The interest rate for Subsidized Stafford Loans was 6.8% for 2012-2013. Interest rates for loans disbursed between July 1, 1998 and June 30, 2006 vary but do not exceed 8.25%. Interest rates for loans are determined on July 1st of each year. If you qualify for a subsidized Stafford Loan, the government will pay interest on your loan until you are scheduled to start paying and after deferment. You are responsible for paying all of the interest that accrues on an unsubsidized Stafford Loan.
- FFEL PLUS Loans and Direct PLUS Loans: FFEL PLUS Loans and Direct PLUS Loans are unsubsidized for parents. FFEL PLUS Loans are made through private lenders and Direct PLUS Loan funds are provided by the federal government through the school. If you are a dependent or independent student whose parents cannot get a PLUS Loan, you can take out more Stafford Loans. For funds disbursed on or after July 1, 2006, the PLUS Loan interest rate is fixed at 7.9% and Direct PLUS Loans, and 8.5% for FFEL PLUS Loans. Interest rates for loans disbursed between July 1, 1998 and June 30, 2006 vary but do not exceed 9%. They are determined on July 1st of every year. Graduate and professional degree students are can borrow under the PLUS Loan Program up to their cost of attendance minus other estimated financial assistance in both the FFEL and Direct Loan Program. The terms and conditions applicable to Parent PLUS Loans apply to Graduate/Professional PLUS loans. These requirements include that the applicant does not have an adverse credit history, repayment starts on the last disbursement date of the loan, and the interest rate is fixed at 8.5% for the FFEL program and 7.9% for the Direct Loan program.
- Campus-Based Programs: Not all schools have campus-based programs. For the schools that participate, there are three of these programs: Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, Federal Work Study and Federal Perkins Loans. Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants are only available to undergraduates and awards range from $100 to $4,000 (up to $4,400 for students who study abroad). Federal Work-Study provides jobs to undergraduate and graduate students, allowing them to earn money to pay for education expenses. Federal Perkins Loans are low-interest loans at a rate of 5%. The maximum loan amount is $4,000 annually for undergraduate students and $6,000 annually for graduate students.
Am I Eligible for Student Aid from These Programs?
To receive aid from federal student aid programs, you must meet the following requirements:
- Be a citizen or eligible noncitizen of the U.S.
- Have a high school diploma, General Education Development (GED) certificate, pass an approved "ability to benefit" test, or have completed the equivalent of a high school education in a homeschool setting approved by state law
- Enroll in an eligible program as a regular student seeking a degree or certificate
- Be registered with the Selective Service if you are a male over the age of 18
Sources of Information
For information on any federal student financial aid programs, call the Federal Student Aid Information Center (FSAIC) toll-free at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243) or 1-800-730-8913 TTY.
The FSAIC provides the following services:
- Helps complete FAFSA on the Web or Corrections on the Web
- Helps complete the paper FAFSA
- Answers questions about the PIN
- Checks the status of the FAFSA
- Mails a duplicate SAR
- Changes your paper address and e-mail address
- Changes the schools you listed on your application
- Explains the SAR and how to make corrections
- Checks on whether a school participates in federal student aid programs
- Explains who is eligible for federal student aid
- Explains how federal student aid is awarded and paid
- Explains the verification process
- Sends requested publications
The FSAIC does not do the following:
- Make policies
- Expedite the federal student aid application process
- Discuss your federal student aid file with unauthorized persons
- Influence schools’ financial aid policies
Access the Department's Web site for general information and publications at www.studentaid.ed.gov
The Student Guide explains the federal student financial assistance programs in detail and can be found at www.studentaid.ed.gov/guide
Information about borrowers’ rights and responsibilities in managing their student loan repayment can be found at www.studentaid.ed.gov/repayingpub
The Student Aid Audio Guide is an audio recording available on compact disc for visually impaired or blind students. It highlights the information contained in both the Student Guide and Funding Your Education in a simulated conversation between a counselor at the FSAIC and a student. Find it at www.studentaid.ed.gov/audioguide
The EFC Formula Worksheets are forms that explain how the EFC is calculated.
Obtain a copy of any of these publications at no charge from:
Federal Student Aid Information Center
P.O. Box 84
Washington, DC 20044
Who can I call for help answering FAFSA questions?
Call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243) with questions about the electronic or paper application process, or about federal student financial aid in general.
Why does the Department of Education ask for income information from the year before I go to school?
Studies have consistently shown that verifiable income tax information from the base year is more accurate than projected information when estimating how much a family can contribute.
What is the deadline for applying for federal financial aid for the fall semester?
Federal financial aid awards are tied to the federal government’s fiscal year, which is July 1st-June 30th of each year. If you plan to start college in the fall you must complete a current year FAFSA no later than June 30th of the same year.
Your application will not be accepted after June 30th. If you miss the deadline you cannot submit an application until the following year, and you will not be considered for federal student financial aidthat year. The earliest you would receive federal grants or loans, is January of the next year.
Do not wait until the last minute to submit your FAFSA. If you need to find money for college, fill out your FAFSA as early as possible. Most schools have priority deadlines for financial aid programs, and if you wait until the last minute, fund will already be awarded to other candidates.
What should I do if my family has special circumstances that aren't mentioned in the application?
Talk to your financial aid administrator (FAA). If your family's circumstances have changed from the base year due to loss of employment, loss of benefits, death, or divorce, the FAA may decide to adjust the data elements used to calculate your EFC. The adjustment might increase your eligibility for student aid.
I'm not sure if I want to take out a student loan. What should I enter for the question asking if I am interested in student loans?
Some schools use this information to put together a financial aid package for you. Answering "Yes" does not obligate you to take out a loan it just means that the school will offer you a loan/loans in your aid package. You do not have to accept loans.
If I live with an aunt, uncle, or grandparent, should that relative's income be reported instead of parental information?
Only if the relative is your adoptive parent. Students are only considered dependent their parent(s) and can report only parental information on the FAFSA. You must report (in Worksheet B) any cash support given by relatives. Do not include in-kind support, such as food and housing, from relatives in your report.
What if I live with a girlfriend or boyfriend who pays the rent?
Do not report information for a friend or roommate unless you are married under state law. Report cash support given by the friend as untaxed income. Do not report in-kind support, such as food. Report rent as income if your name is on the lease and if the roommate is paying rent on your behalf.
When is student aid considered income?
Grants and scholarships that do not exceed tuition and fees, books, and required supplies are not considered income. If you have an ROTC scholarship, a private scholarship, or another type of grant or scholarship, that grant or scholarship will be considered an available resource by the financial aid office, but will not be reported as income on the application.
Report the grants and scholarships you’ve reported on your tax return, and report these items as excluded from income on Worksheet C.
What's the difference between cash support and in-kind support?
Cash support is support is money given/paid on your behalf. Report cash support as untaxed income. For example, grocery money from a friend or parent is untaxed income on Worksheet B. Bills and rent are also reported.
Examples of in-kind support are free food or housing in exchange for work or services. Do not report in-kind support.
However, the application requires you to report the value of the housing received as compensation for a job on Worksheet B. The most common example is free housing or a housing allowance provided to military personnel or clergy. This is reported on Worksheet B.
I am now a U.S. citizen but have an Alien Registration Number (A-Number). How do I indicate this on the application?
You are now a U.S. citizen. Do not provide an A-Number.
I'm going to get married this summer. How do I answer the question that asks if I am married?
Answer "Yes" if you are married on the day you sign the FAFSA. Otherwise, answer "No." The FAFSA is a snapshot of your status the day it is signed. Do not forecast future changes such as marriage.
Why must I report the highest school level my parents completed?
Some states and institutions make funds available based on their parents' educational history. For example, additional support is provided for students who are first-generation college students. This information also serves statistical purposes. If you don't know the answer, select "Other/unknown."
If I'm an emancipated minor, am I now independent?
If I am in the National Guard or am an active duty military member, am I considered a veteran for purposes of filling out the FAFSA?
If you were a member of the National Guard or were a Reservist called to active duty for purposes other than training, and were released under a condition other than dishonorable, you are considered a veteran for FAFSA purposes.
If you are active duty in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines or Coast Guard, and are released before the June 30th deadline, you are considered a veteran. If you are still active duty past June 30th, you are not considered a veteran.
I'll be filing a tax return this year but I probably won't get around to it until April. How should I answer the financial questions? Should I wait to fill out this form until after I've filed my tax return?
It is ideal to complete the FAFSA after your most recent tax return. Do not wait until April. Colleges award aid on a first-come, first-served basis. Also, you will not be eligible for a lot state aid if you wait until April to submit your FAFSA. If you haven't submitted your tax return, calculate your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) and taxes paid using the instructions from IRS Form 1040. Find these instructions and the form at a public library or download the PDF from www.irs.gov/formspubs/index.html
Once you file your tax returns, correct any changes to your income that have happened since you last filed.
If you file, be prepared to send a copy of your tax return to the college before receiving federal student aid .
If my parents are divorced, whose information do I need?
Use the information of the parent you lived with the most during the last 12 months. For tax purposes, it does not make a difference which parent claims you as a dependent. If you did not live with either parent or lived equally with both parents, use the information from the parent who gives the most financial support.
I am entering financial information for my mother and stepfather on the FAFSA. Should I give my father's Social Security Number (SSN) and last name, or my stepfather's?
Provide the SSN and last name of the person/persons for whom you are reporting financial information.
What should you do if the parent you live with is remarried and the stepparent refuses to supply information?
If you are a dependent student and your parent is remarried, the stepparent's information must be included or you will not be considered for federal student financial aid.
How does a family decide who should be counted in the household size?
Anyone in the immediate family who receives more than 50% support from a dependent student's parents or an independent student and spouse may be counted in the household size even if that person does not reside in the house. For example, a sibling who is over 24 but still receives the majority of his/her support from the parents can be included. Siblings who are dependent (as defined by the FAFSA) by the financial aidapplication date are also included, regardless of the support they receive. Any other person who resides in the household and receives more than 50% support from the parents can be counted, as long as residency and support is expected to continue through the FAFSA filing period. A child who will be born during the award year is also be counted in household size.
Household size and tax exemptions are different. Exemptions look at the previous year or tax year, and household size refers to the school year in which the student is applying for aid.
My parents separated four months ago. I live with my mother. My parents filed for a joint tax return and claimed me as an exemption. Do I report both incomes, or just my mother's?
Report only your mother's income and asset information because you lived with her most often. Use a W-2 Form or other records to determine her share.
If I (the student) am separated but filed a joint tax return, how is the information reported?
Only give your portion of the exemptions, income, and taxes paid.
Who qualifies to be counted in the number in college?
Any person (other than your parents) who is counted in the household and will be attending any term of the academic year at least half time is qualified. The person must be working toward a degree or certificate leading to a recognized education credential at a postsecondary school eligible to participate in the federal student aid programs. You (the student) do not need to be enrolled half-time to be counted as a number in college.
When does my school have to receive the results from my application?
Your school must have your information by either the last day of enrollment in the same academic year you are filling out the FAFSA, or by August 31 of that year. Send your results on whichever date comes first. If your school does not receive your application information electronically, you must submit a paper SAR to the school by that deadline. Once the school receives your information, it will use your EFC to determine the amount of your federal grant, loan, or work-study award. The FAA will send you a letter explaining your financial aid awards.
What if I don't get an SAR Information Acknowledgement or SAR, or I need another copy of that form?
If you do not receive your SAR Information Acknowledgement within two weeks, or SAR within four weeks of submitting your application, call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243). Use the automated system to find out if the application has been processed, or to request duplicate copies of your report. You will need to provide your Social Security Number and the first two letters of your last name. Check the status of your FAFSA and print a copy of your SAR at www.fafsa.ed.gov.
What if I think somebody is misusing federal student aid funds?
If you suspect fraud, waste, or abuse involving federal student aid funds, call the U.S. Department of Education's Inspector General's toll-free hotline at:
The Privacy Act
The Department of Education (the Department) uses the information that you provide on the FAFSA to determine if you are eligible to receive federal student financial aid, and the amount that you are eligible to receive. Section 483 and 484 of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended, gives the Department the authority to ask you and your parents for information and to collect your Social Security Numbers.
State and institutional student financial aid programs also use the information provided on your FAFSA to determine if you are eligible to receive state and institutional aid and your financial need. Therefore, we will disclose the information provided on your FAFSA to each institution listed in question 104, the state agency in your state of legal residence, and the state agencies in the states for the schools listed in question 104.
If you are applying solely for federal aid, you must answer all of the following questions: 1-9, 14-16, 18, 21-23, 26-28, 33-37, 39-61, 63-70, 72, 75-87, 89-103, 105-106.
Without consent, the U.S. Department of Education may disclose your information to third parties under a published "routine use." Under published routine uses, we may disclose the information to private firms that assist the U.S. Department of Education in administering federal student financial aid programs. However, private firms that contract with the U.S. Department of Education must maintain the safeguards required under the Privacy Act.
The Department of Education can also send your information to other federal agencies through computer matching programs to verify your eligibility for federal student financial aid, to perform debt collection under the federal loan programs, and to minimize and prevent waste, fraud, and abuse in the federal student aid programs. Such computer matching programs include matching programs with the Internal Revenue Service, Selective Service System, Social Security Administration, Department of Veteran Affairs, and Department of Homeland Security. The Department of Education also exchanges information with the Department of Justice to enforce Section 5301 of the Anti Drug Abuse Act.
In addition, your name, address, Social Security Number, date of birth, expected family contribution, dependency status, and state of legal residence will be sent to the state agency in your state of legal residence. This disclosure will allow you to apply for state student financial aid without having to submit an additional application form. Your application information will also be sent to the school(s) listed in question 104, or its representative, and to the state agencies in the states of the school(s) listed in question 104.
Lastly, we can send your information to members of Congress if you ask them to help with federal student aid questions. Your parents’ or spouse’s information is shared if they put it on your form.
If the federal government, the U.S. Department of Education, or an employee of the U.S. Department of Education is involved in litigation, the Department may send information to the Department of Justice, or a court or adjudicative body, if the disclosure is related to financial aid and certain conditions are met. In addition, the Department may send your information to a foreign, federal, state, or local enforcement agency if the information submitted indicates a violation or potential violation of law, for which that agency has jurisdiction for investigation or prosecution. Finally, the Department can send your information to a consumer reporting agency if a claim is involved that is determined to be valid and overdue. This information includes identifiers from the record; the amount, status and history of the claim and the program under which the claim arose.
The Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995
The Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 says that no one is required to respond to a collection of information unless it displays a valid OMB control number, which for the FAFSA is 1845-0001. The time required to complete the paper FAFSA is estimated to be one hour, including time to review instructions, search data resources, gather the data needed, and complete and review the information collection. If you have comments about this estimate or suggestions for improving the form, please write to:
U.S. Department of Education
Washington, DC 20202-4651
Last Reviewed: March 2017
- FAFSA and Other Daunting Financial Aid Acronyms
- FAFSA on the Web
- FAFSA on the Web Provides Speedy Financial Aid Processing
- Federal Grant Programs: Pell and FSEOG
- Federal Pell Grants
- Federal Perkins Loans
- Federal Student Financial Aid for College
- Federal Work Study
- FSEOG: Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants
- The FAFSA: New Year Means New Application
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