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Tips For Completing the FAFSA

The financial aid from your intended college and the federal government is determined by your FAFSA. That’s why it is important to take your application seriously, and finish your forms early. For help, browse through our site for advice, or call the Federal Student Aid Information Center (FSAIC) at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243), visit the federal student aid website, or contact the financial aid administrator at your intended college.

After your FAFSA is processed, you will receive a Student Air Report (SAR) with a summary of your financial aid information, and see your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) which is the amount your family is expected to pay for a college education. College is a major expense, so do not take the FAFSA lightly. Check out our tips for completing the FAFSA below so you are ready to file the application as soon as it’s available from the U.S. Department of Education on January 1st.

  • Have the following documents and information ready when filling out the FAFSA:
    • Your most recent year's tax forms, or end-of-the-year pay stubs
    • Your W-2 forms
    • Records of the most recent year's untaxed income, such as child support and support from agencies such as Social Services, Social Security, and the Veteran Administration. Do not attach copies of these documents to your FAFSA, they are only for reference when you file.
    • The student's correct social security number
  • Do not leave any questions blank. If your answer is zero, then write "0".
  • Read and follow instructions carefully, even if you have filled out the FAFSA before, because questions and instructions change.
  • If you are a parent with multiple children, fill out a separate FAFSA for each student. Make sure each social security number is correct for each child, incorrect SSNs delay processing.
  • If you are a dependent student, ask your parents to help you fill out the FAFSA. Financial aid offices contact the student first so it is important that both you and your parent(s) know the information on the FAFSA.
  • Obtain the Federal school code from the school or schools you are interested in attending.
  • Double check figures and calculations. 40% of the forms with mistakes are delayed.
  • Do not report the net value of your primary residence. Asset questions are only for secondary and investment properties.
  • Both the parent and the student (if applicable) must sign and date the FAFSA.
  • Fill out the forms early. This gives you an advantage because campus-based aid is awarded on a first-come first-serve basis. Also, the FAFSA must be filed every year. Report any changes in your financial situation to your financial aid administrator because they can affect your eligibility. Do not sign, date, or mail the FAFSA before January 1st.

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Last Reviewed: August 2020