The best way to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is early, online, and without any mistakes (download and print our checklist of what you'll need to have on hand in order to file your FAFSA). If you aren't yet ready to file a FAFSA, the Department of Education's FAFSA4caster tool can help you estimate your eligibility for federal student aid by providing some basic information.
Many states and colleges use the FAFSA to determine eligibility for nonfederal student aid funds that may have early deadlines or limited funding. The sooner you complete the FAFSA the more aid you could be eligible for.
In past years, if you or your family had not yet filed your tax returns for the previous year when you submitted your financial aid application, you had to use estimates and go back later on to submit the actual figures. But that’s all changing starting with the 2017-18 FAFSA. Thanks to executive action taken by President Obama on September 13, 2015, instead of waiting until you and/or your parents have completed your tax returns for the previous year, you will now complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or the FAFSA, using information from two years prior. Watch our quick video to learn more about how you’ll benefit from this new move to using prior-prior year income data and read Federal Student Aid's College Students and Parents: What You Need to Know About the 2017–18 FAFSA two-pager for more information about the Early FAFSA
View and print our helpful FAFSA Checklist to learn what you'll want to have on hand when you sit down to fill out your FAFSA.
Online applications are easier to complete because it uses skip-‐logic to only ask relevant questions. In addition, online applications will be processed faster and will likely be more accurate because the FAFSA website is designed to catch common errors. The U.S. Department of Education provides a Pre-Application Worksheet that will help you collect and proofread information for your application before you submit it. You can create a FSA ID that will allow easy access to your electronic FAFSA application. Additionally, this will enable save options, electronic signature and timely submission of your application. You can obtain your FSA ID and get more information on the FSA website.
When you apply online, you will be given the option to retrieve your IRS Data to automatically populate the FAFSA. This option simplifies the application process, helps reduce errors and lowers your chances of being selected to verify the information on your FAFSA. Starting with the 2017-18 FAFSA, you will submit your tax information from two years prior, rather than your taxes for the most recent filing year. You should be able to retrieve this information to automatically populate the corresponding questions on the FAFSA.
Mistakes can delay your application and limit the amount of aid you are eligible to receive. To avoid errors, carefully read all of the questions on the FAFSA. Some of the most common FAFSA errors are:
Check the Help section of the FAFSA website or call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4‐FED AID (1-800-433-3243). The Department of Education also provides answers to frequently asked questions about the FAFSA, and FAFSA on the Web Live Help, a secure online chat session that allows you to ask questions of customer service representatives.
Look for a free FAFSA event in your area to get professional assistance filling out the FAFSA. Financial aid administrators across the country participate in these free FAFSA events to help students and families fill out the form accurately.
Publication Date: 9/22/2016