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To apply for federal student aid, such as federal grants, work-study, and loans, you need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Completing and submitting the FAFSA is free and easier than ever, and it gives you access to the largest source of financial aid to pay for college or career school.

In addition, many states and colleges use your FAFSA information to determine your eligibility for state and school aid, and some private financial aid providers may use your FAFSA information to determine whether you qualify for their aid.

Here are some things to do BEFORE you start filling out the FAFSA!

1. Get a Federal Student Aid ID (FSA ID)

Write it down! You need this to “sign” your online FAFSA. Keep it safe!

If you are a dependent student then at least one of your parents/guardians MUST also get an FSA ID


2. Collect the following documents:

  • Income tax returns, using income records for the year prior to the academic year for which you are applying.

  • W-2 forms-and other records of income; If you work and you file a tax return, you must include this information in the FAFSA.

  • Your Social Security number.

  • Your parents’ Social Security numbers.

  • Your Alien Registration Number if you are not a U.S. citizen.

  • Know your parent’s date of marriage; parent’s date of birth.

  • Information on savings, investments, and business assets for yourself and for your parents if you are providing parent information.

  • If you are married, you need to collect federal tax information or tax returns, including W-2 information, for yourself, for your spouse, and for your parents if you are providing parent information.


You should file the FAFSA ASAP after October 1 the year before you hope to enroll (or continue) in college. (It used

to be January 1 the year you hoped to enroll. It now opens 3 months earlier!

Here's a closer look at the 2016 FAFSA changes.

For example, if you're planning to start college in September 2017, you would file the FAFSA on or after October 1, 2016, with tax info from 2015. All these dates might seem a little confusing at first, but this new FAFSA schedule makes the financial aid process more closely align with the admission process. This should enable you and your family to make better college financial decisions overall—and sooner.


All applicants for federal student aid are considered either “independent” or “dependent.” Dependent students are required to include information about their parents on the FAFSA.

  • Will you be 24 or older by Dec. 31 of the school year for which you are applying for financial aid?

  • Will you be working toward a master’s or doctorate degree (such as M.A., M.B.A., M.D., J.D., Ph.D., Ed.D., etc.)?

  • Are you married or separated but not divorced?

  • Do you have children who receive more than half of their support from you?

  • Do you have dependents (other than children or a spouse) who live with you and receive more than half of their support from you?

  • At any time since you turned age 13, were both of your parents deceased, were you in foster care, or were you a ward or dependent of the court?

  • Are you an emancipated minor or are you in a legal guardianship as determined by a court?

  • Are you an unaccompanied youth who is homeless or self-supporting and at risk of being homeless?

  • Are you currently serving on active duty in the U.S. armed forces for purposes other than training?

  • Are you a veteran of the U.S. armed forces?​

If none of the criteria listed above apply to you, you may be considered a dependent student and may be required to provide your parents’ financial information when completing the FAFSA. If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you may be an independent student. You may not be required to provide parental information on your FAFSA.​

IF you are still in panic mode & need additional assistance:

E-mail Federal Student Aid Help

Call FAFSA HOTLINE: 1-800-4FED-AID (1-800-433-3243)

International Caller? Can’t make a toll-free call? 1-334-523-2691

Monday–Friday 8 a.m.–11 p.m. Eastern time (ET) Saturday–Sunday 11 a.m.–5 p.m. Eastern time (ET) Closed on federal holidays, the day after Thanksgiving and on December 24th.


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