FAFSA: 10 Things You Need to Know

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

NOTE: changes are coming to the FAFSA including a delayed opening date (estimated for December 2023). These 10 tips probably won’t be affected.

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 (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.

3) Having your student be a part of this process is a good idea–a learning experience. Students need to understand the financial process, the financial cost, and the potential future burden if loans are involved.

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) Be prepared. The process can take a couple of hours. The same page from item #5 above has detailed info about the process.

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 worksheet if you prefer to see things on paper. The worksheet can change from year-to-year. You can find a preview of the proposed 2024/25 worksheet here.

9) Hate typing in numbers? The IRS and the Department of Education created a Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) to link the FAFSA to your federal income taxes. When you use the DRT, the numbers will not be visible to you. You will see “Transferred from the IRS” in the field instead.

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 in December 2023). 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.

No one is probably excited about completing the FAFSA except maybe accountants, but it is an important step in the college application process. Be sure to tackle this task.


Updated 8/2023

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