What is the FAFSA?

The FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid administered by the Office of Federal Student Aid. Students must submit the FAFSA to qualify for any federal financial aid, most state aid programs, and the vast majority of college aid programs. There is no cost to complete the FAFSA.

The FAFSA requires financial information from the student and from the student’s parents unless the student qualifies as an independent student. To complete the FAFSA, students will need income tax returns, W-2 forms, bank statements, records of investments or untaxed income, and their social security number.

Students will also enter the codes for each school they are applying to. You can list up to ten schools on the FAFSA. You can add schools by updating your FAFSA and substitution a new school for an old school. However, if you make any other changes to the FAFSA, the old school will not receive the information.

The Office of Federal Student Aid provides a worksheet that provides a preview of the questions you will be asked on the FAFSA. Students can use this to determine their dependency status and collect the information they will need to complete the FAFSA. The worksheet also list state financial aid deadlines and is updated every year.

You can complete the FAFSA online or through the mail as early as January 1st of their senior year. Using the online form will reduce the number of errors and will allow students to use the IRS retrieval tool to complete required fields.

After the FAFSA is processed, the student will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) which will provide the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The EFC is calculated using the Federal Methodology. You need to check that all of the information on the SAR is correct.

There are a variety of calculators that will estimate your EFC. The Office of Federal Student Aid has the FAFSA4caster and FinAid.org has a Quick EFC Calculator.

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