These FAQs are associated with the current 2023-2024 FAFSA. New 2024-2025 FAFSA information will be made available later this year.
When do I fill out the FAFSA?
You’ll want to complete your form as soon as possible after Oct. 1 of your senior year of high school and then each year you need financial aid. Also, keep in mind that some financial aid programs that require the FAFSA have application deadlines early in the year.
Where can I get a FAFSA?
How much does it cost to complete the FAFSA?
You should never pay to fill out the FAFSA; it’s always free. Make sure you go to StudentAid.gov, which is the official FAFSA website. Other sites and organizations may try to charge you to complete or submit the form.
Is my personal information safe when I apply online?
Yes. FAFSA.gov is a secure site and your information is encrypted for privacy.
What if I have a question while I’m completing my FAFSA online?
View the “Tool Tips” by clicking the question mark to the right of each question on the form. This will give you help regarding that specific part of the FAFSA. Also, on the FAFSA home page you can find more information by clicking “Get Help Filling Out the FAFSA Form”, which contains tips and techniques for preparing, completing and submitting your form.
How do I find the school codes to enter on my FAFSA?
What if I completed my entire FAFSA online, but forgot to apply for an FSA ID? How quickly can I get one?
The FAFSA application will offer you a variety of opportunities to request your FSA ID throughout the completion process. You may visit FAFSA.gov to apply at any time. Your parent or spouse may need an FSA ID as well.
I was completing my FAFSA online and lost all of my information. How did that happen?
You must hit the ‘Save’ button often. Always use the ‘Next’ and ‘Previous’ buttons on the site. Never use the ‘Back’ button on your browser or you may lose your information.
Do I need to complete my taxes before filling out the FAFSA?
While it’s best to get your taxes done early, FAFSA now uses tax information from two years prior, so you’re probably already up to date. If you don’t have your taxes done, you can still submit your FAFSA using estimated income and tax information. However, once you file your tax return, you’ll have to correct your FAFSA if any information changes.
I completed the paper FAFSA. Do I need to mail my tax return with it?
No. You should never send tax returns with your FAFSA. If the financial aid office needs your tax information, they’ll request it.
I live with my grandparents. Do I use their information on the FAFSA?
No. Unless your grandparents have adopted you, the FAFSA instructs dependent students to report their parents’ income. If you have a special situation, you should contact your school’s financial aid office.
Whose income do I report if my parents are divorced?
The parent you lived with the most during the last 12 months.
My parents are divorced and I lived with each of them equally during the last 12 months. Whose income should I enter on the FAFSA?
If you lived with each parent for the same amount of time during the past year, you should include income information for the parent who provided you the most support during that time frame.
One of my parents recently lost their job and can no longer afford to pay for college. What can I do?
Contact your school’s financial aid office; they may be able to offer alternatives.
I’m currently considered a dependent student, but I’m getting married next month. Can I complete my FAFSA now as an independent student?
No. The rules state you must be married at the time you submit the FAFSA to be recognized as an independent student.
Can I receive federal student aid if I am homeless or at risk of becoming homeless?
Yes. When you complete the FAFSA, you will be asked whether you are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless and “unaccompanied” (meaning not with your parents).
Will I be required to submit documentation to prove I am “unaccompanied” and homeless or at risk of becoming homeless?
Maybe. Once you answer “yes” to the general homelessness question on the FAFSA, you will be asked whether you have received a homeless youth determination. If you indicate that you have, the financial aid administrator at the college you plan to attend may request the determination to prove that you are self-supporting, “unaccompanied” and homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.
You should contact one of the following individuals to ask if they can provide you with a homeless youth determination:
- Your high school or school district homeless liaison
- The director of an emergency shelter or transitional housing program funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
- The director of a runaway or homeless youth basic center or transitional living program
In some cases, the individual listed above may not be allowed to make a homeless youth determination if you are receiving his or her program’s support or if, in the case of a school district homeless liaison, you are in his or her high school or high school district.
My parents have money in a 401(k). Do I need to include that information in my application?
No. Your parents’ retirement funds are not used when calculating the Expected Family Contribution (EFC).
I’m pregnant. Can I include my unborn baby in the household size on my FAFSA?
Yes, you can include an unborn child in your household size if he/she will be born within your school’s academic year.
By claiming a child, you may qualify as an independent student only if you will provide more than half of the child’s support during the academic year for which you’ve requested financial aid.
I’ll more than likely get a full scholarship; do I still need to complete the FAFSA?
Don’t take the chance and miss out on financial aid. Complete the FAFSA.
My parents saved a lot of money for my college education, but all the funds are under my name. Is that a good idea?
No. The FAFSA uses a larger percentage of student income and assets when determining the Expected Family Contribution (EFC), so it’s best to keep all savings accounts under the parent’s name.
How do I know if I’m considered a dependent or an independent student?
Use this dependency questionnaire (PDF) to determine your status. If you’re deemed an independent student, you will not need to provide your parent’s information when completing your FAFSA.
What happens once I submit my application?
You’ll get a SAR—a Student Aid Report, which is a summary of the information you provided on the FAFSA.
Carefully review any requests for information sent by your college and respond quickly. Once your financial aid application is finalized, the aid office will send you a financial aid offer notifying you of the types of aid you’re eligible to receive. You should accept free money first, like grants and scholarships. If student loans are necessary to help cover your total educational expenses, only borrow the amount you actually need.
If you have an email address on file, the Department of Education will send an email within three to five business days with instructions for viewing your SAR online. The schools you listed on your FAFSA will also receive a copy of your SAR.
Carefully review the information provided or additional information requested, and send any additional information back as soon as possible. Once your application is finished, the financial aid office will send you a financial aid offer letting you know what types of aid you’re eligible for. You don’t have to accept all of the aid awarded. Borrow only what you need for school expenses, like tuition, books and housing.
Who can I talk to if I have more questions?
Contact the financial aid office of the school you plan to attend. They can answer your questions and direct you to helpful resources.