FAFSA: 10 Things You Need to Know

High school senior families, starting October 1st, you can begin to file your student’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA®.

(Class of 2024, due to changes in the FAFSA, your opening date was December 31, 2023.)

10 things you should know about the FAFSA:

1) The FAFSA has “free” in the title. Don’t be fooled by some websites wanting to charge you to file on your behalf.

2) Each person/contributor (parents, student, student’s spouse, parent’s spouse) providing financial information on the FAFSA needs their own FSA ID, a username/password combo that is used to sign electronically. You can get that at anytime. It can take a couple days to process. Click here. If married parents file their taxes jointly, only one will need an FSA ID.

3) Your student should be in charge of this process. It is an important learning experience. Students need to understand the financial process, the financial cost, and the potential future burden if loans are involved. They should begin the FAFSA, complete their section, and invite the contributors’ to provide their pieces.

4) Filing is a good idea even if you don’t think you are eligible for federal financial aid. Federal student loans require the FAFSA. Many colleges require it for merit-aid consideration. Also, if something should happen in the future to change your financial situation (illness, loss of job), having a FAFSA on file is helpful.

5) Visit this site and scroll to the list of required paperwork you will need to gather.

6) The new FAFSA is significantly shorter than the previous version. It may take only 10 to 20 minutes now.

7) Need more help? 28 Places to Get Help with the FAFSA

8) While the FAFSA is an online application, you can still print out a 2024/25 worksheet if you prefer to see things on paper. The worksheet can change from year-to-year.

9) Hate typing in numbers? No problem! You will be prompted to connect your FAFSA electronically to the IRS in order to retrieve the necessary numbers from the student’s and contributors’ tax filings. If you decline this connection, you will not be eligible for federal student aid. Some of the numbers you will have to enter manually include cash, savings, and checking account balances.

10) A final tip comes from our friends at Capstone Wealth Partners, try to complete the process by November 1st (or as soon as the application opens). Financial aid is first come, first served.

NOTE: The myStudentAid app created by the US Department of Education was retired in June 2022. Do not trust apps pretending to be FAFSA in the Google or Apple app stores.

Completing the FAFSA is an important step in the college application process. The US Department of Education simplified it to make the whole process easier. Be sure to tackle this task!


Updated 2/2024

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