Applying For Financial Aid
But I hate filling out a bunch of forms.
You have to complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to get financial aid. You can apply electronically from your home computer or from a computer at a central location like your high school, your local public library, or your local educational opportunity center using FAFSA on the Web. If you choose to use a paper FAFSA, mail it to the address indicated on the application.
FAFSA on the Web is an interactive Web site where you can complete a FAFSA online and submit our data over the Internet. All you need is a computer with access to the Internet. FAFSA on the Web can be found at:
For more information on applying electronically, visit:
Doesn't anyone use paper anymore?
Get a paper FAFSA, in English or Spanish, from your local library, high school, the school you plan to attend, or the Federal Student Aid Information Center:
Federal Student Aid Information Center
P.O. Box 84
Washington, DC 20044-0084
The college or career school you plan to attend will give you other forms you need. Applying for all programs is free.
When can I apply?
Apply as early as possible. For 2016-2017, get your application as soon as it’s available on Jan. 1, 2016. Do not transmit your electronic FAFSA or sign, date, or mail your paper FAFSA before Jan. 1, 2016. If you transmit, sign, date, or mail your FAFSA before Jan. 1, your application will not be processed and you will have to reapply.
Your eligibility is only valid for one award year. The results from your 2016-2017 application are good for the 2016-2017 award year (July 1, 2016, to June 30, 2017, and any summer terms that your school considers part of that award year).
To apply for financial aid in subsequent award years, fill out a Renewal FAFSA. With a Renewal FAFSA, you only have to fill out the information that changed from the previous award year. The Renewal FAFSA is also available at FAFSA on the Web.
What Should I know before I get started?
Get a PIN. You and parents of dependent students (see sidebar) can get a pin at www.pin.ed.gov. You'll need a valid Social Security Number (SSN) to apply for federal student aid. We use your SSN to verify your information and locate your records. If you don't have a valid SSN your application won't be processed. If you don't have an SSN yet, apply for one at your local Social Security office. Find out more about applying for an SSN at:
Know whose financial information to report on the FAFSA depending on your dependency status. Most college bound high school students are dependent students.
If you are dependent, you have to report both your and your parents' financial information on the FAFSA. This information will be considered when your eligibility is determined.
If you are independent, report only your financial information (and your spouse's if you're married).
In special or unusual circumstances, a college's or career school's financial aid administrator might decide that a dependent student is considered independent. A parent's refusal to provide financial assistance or to provide the required FAFSA information is not a valid reason. See the "Eligibility Criteria" section for more information.
If you're dependent and your parents are divorced or separated, use information from the parent you lived with for the most time during the past 12 months. If you do not live with either parent, or if you lived with each parent equally, use information from the parent who provided the most financial support during the past 12 months.
If your parent was single and is now married, or was divorced or widowed and has remarried, your stepparent's financial information must be included on the FAFSA. This does not mean that your stepparent has to support you financially, the information only helps form an accurate picture of your family's financial strength.
What does the application ask for?
The FAFSA asks for your family's financial information, when you complete the 2016-2017 FAFSA or FAFSA on the Web, you'll need your parents' 2015 U.S. income tax return if you are a dependent student. If you filed a return, you'll need yours too. Referring to the tax forms makes it easier to answer the FAFSA questions, which ask for information from specific lines on the U.S. income tax forms. If you have not completed your tax form in time, estimate your answers and then correct them later. Bank statements, W-2 forms, and business or farm records are also helpful.
Save your forms in case you need them later if your school asks you to provide proof of the information on your FAFSA. If the information is not right, you will not get financial aid until its corrected. Keep a photocopy of your completed FAFSA or a printout of your application from FAFSA on the Web or FAFSA Express.
On the FAFSA on the Web, and the paper FAFSA, you can list up to six schools of interest. Those schools will get the results of your application after it has been processed. Each school that participates has a federal school code. List this code on Step Six of the application so schools will get your information.
You can get federal school codes from a college or career school financial aid office, your high school, or your local public library. FAFSA on the Web has built-in, searchable federal school code lists. You can also find a searchable list on the FAFSA website:
List your schools on the paper FAFSA, even though it is not required, so schools will distribute your financial aid faster. If you're using FAFSA on the Web, you must list at least one school in Step Six of the application.
What is a PIN?
Because electronic signatures hold the same legal status as written signatures, students and parents of dependent students applying for aid can sign their FAFSA on the Web applications by using their PINs, allowing for total online processing.
If you are a new applicant and you or your parents do not have a PIN get one at www.pin.ed.gov before you complete the FAFSA. You can request a PIN as early as your senior year in high school. If you are a dependent student, your parents' financial information must be reported and they have to electronically sign the FAFSA. Make sure your parents have a PIN.
You will need to supply your name, Social Security Number, date of birth, and mailing address, and submit the PIN request. When the submission has been successfully completed, a confirmation number will appear on the screen. Once your information is verified by other federal agencies, your PIN is generated and mailed to you via the U.S. Postal Service. As of January 2002, students and parents have the option of receiving their PIN via e-mail.
If you have questions about the PIN call 1-800-801-0576.
How can I find out the status of my application?
Any applicant can check his or her application status by going to the FAFSA on the Web site. All filers can make corrections to their information on that site as long as they have a PIN. You can request a PIN at www.pin.ed.gov.
If you file a paper FAFSA, include the postcard that comes with it. They stamp the postcard with the date we received your FAFSA and mail the postcard back to you. The FAFSA is processed within four weeks from the date it was mailed.
What happens after my application is processed?
After your application information is complete and transmitted or mailed to FAFSA, you’ll receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) or SAR Information Acknowledgment in the mail. Your SAR summarizes the information you reported on your FAFSA. Check the SAR to make sure the information is accurate.
If you applied with a paper FAFSA, fix mistakes directly on the SAR, sign it, and mail it back. You can also make corrections through FAFSA on the Web using your PIN. Get your PIN at www.pin.ed.gov. Check if your school can process corrections electronically for you. Keep a copy of your corrected SAR.
If you apply electronically, your FAFSA is processed in about a week. The results are sent electronically to your school, and you’ll get a SAR Information Acknowledgment in the mail.
You can check the information on your SAR Information Acknowledgment, but you cannot use it to make corrections. Make corrections using FAFSA on the Web.
No matter how you apply, the SAR reflects the information you provided on your FAFSA. If the information you provided is complete your SAR also has your Expected Family Contribution (EFC).
Using your EFC, your financial aid administrator determines your eligibility for financial aid. The schools listed on your application also get a report of your FAFSA information.
You can check the status of your application and request a duplicate of your SAR from the Federal Student Aid Information Center by calling:
Last Reviewed: August 2017
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