FAFSA Opened October 1st – File as soon as you can

What do you need before you fill out the FAFSA?

If you need financial aid to help you pay for college, you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form. The 2020–21 FAFSA form just opened this week on Oct. 1, 2019. You should fill it out as soon as possible at the official government site, fafsa.gov. All information below is provided by the U.S. Department of Education.

Federal funding is limited, so experts urge students and families to file their FAFSAs as soon as possible.

Click here to fill out the FAFSA application and apply for financial aid for college or grad school

Students can file the FAFSA online at FAFSA.gov.  The U.S. Department of Education provides email and live chat assistance for FAFSA filers as well as a helpline at 800-4FED-AID.

Thirteen states award their grants on a first-come, first-serve basis until the money runs out; Texas, Illinois, North Carolina, Alaska, Indiana, Kentucky, Nevada, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Vermont and Washington, according to the Department of Education.

Here’s what you’ll need to fill it out.

1. Create your FSA ID

An FSA ID is a username and password that you can use to log in to certain U.S. Department of Education (ED) websites. Each student, and one parent of each dependent student, will need an FSA ID to complete the FAFSA process on fafsa.gov. We recommend creating your FSA ID early—even before you’re ready to complete the FAFSA form—to avoid delays in the process. Here’s the information you’ll need to receive your FSA ID:

— Social Security number
— Alien Registration number (for non-U.S. citizens)
— Federal income tax returns, W-2s and other records of money earned
— Bank statements and records of investments (if applicable)
— Records of untaxed income (if applicable)

Since this can all be a more than a little overwhelming, here’s a link to a youtube video with step by step instructions: How to Create Your FSA ID.

IMPORTANT: Do NOT create an FSA ID on behalf of someone else. That means parents should not create FSA IDs for their children and vice versa. Doing so may result in issues signing and submitting the FAFSA form and could lead to financial aid delays. (Also, it’s against the rules to create an FSA ID for someone else.)

To summarize:

  • Anyone who plans to fill out the 2020–21 FAFSA form should create an FSA ID as soon as possible.
  • If you are required to provide parent information on your FAFSA form, your parent should create an FSA ID too.
  • Because your FSA ID is equivalent to your signature, parents and students each need to create their own FSA IDs using their own email address and phone number. Parents should not create an FSA ID for their child and vice versa.

2. Have your driver’s license number handy

If you don’t have a driver’s license, then don’t worry about this step.

3. Find your 2018 tax records

  • On the 2020–21 FAFSA form, you (and your parents, as appropriate) will report your 2018 income information.
  • You cannot use your 2019 tax information. We understand that for some families, 2018 income doesn’t accurately reflect your current financial situation. If you have experienced a reduction in income since the 2018 tax year, you should complete the FAFSA form with the info it asks for (2018), and then contact each of the schools to which you’re applying to explain and document the change in income. They have the ability to assess your situation and make adjustments to your FAFSA form if warranted.
  • You cannot update your 2020–21 FAFSA form with your 2019 tax information after filing 2019 taxes. 2018 information is what’s required. No updates necessary; no updates allowed.

4. Locate any records of your untaxed income and records of your assets (money) 

The FAFSA questions about untaxed income may or may not apply to you; they include things like child support received, interest income, and veterans noneducation benefits. On the 2020–21 FAFSA form, you’ll report 2018 tax or calendar year information when asked these questions. Find specific details for parents and students.

There is a section on your assets which includes savings and checking account balances, as well as the value of investments such as stocks and bonds and real estate (but not the home in which your family lives). You should report the current amounts as of the date you sign the FAFSA form, rather than reporting the 2018 tax year amounts.

Note: Misreporting the value of investments is a common FAFSA mistake. Please carefully review what is and is not considered a student investment and parent investment to make sure you don’t over- or under-report. You may be surprised by what can (and cannot) be excluded.

5. List of the school(s) you are interested in attending

Be sure to add any college you’re considering, even if you haven’t applied or been accepted yet.

  • Even if there is only a slight chance you’ll apply to a college, list the school on your FAFSA form. You can always remove schools later if you decide not to apply, but if you wait to add a school, you could miss out on first-come, first-served financial aid.
  • The schools you list on your FAFSA form will automatically receive your FAFSA results electronically. They will use your FAFSA information to determine the types and amounts of financial aid you may receive.
  • If you add a school to your FAFSA form and later decide not to apply for admission to that school, that’s OK! The school likely won’t offer you aid until you’ve been accepted anyway.
  • You can list up to 10 schools at a time on your FAFSA form.

Ready to fill it out? 

Once you’re ready, you have several ways to complete the FAFSA form, including the fafsa.gov website or the new myStudentAid mobile app. Using the app, you can fill out the FAFSA form safely and securely from your mobile device. On the app, you can also manage your FSA ID, view your federal student aid history and loan information, and more. The myStudentAid app is available from both the Apple App Store (iOS) and Google Play (Android).