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    Apply for FAFSA With These Easy Steps

    Students can access financial aid to help pay for their degrees via federal loans, federal or state-funded grants, student loans, or all three of the above with FAFSA. This completely free application submitted to the US Department of Education is designed to help students determine how to apply for financial aid for college.

    Existing, new, and prospective students in need of financial support can apply via FAFSA. It is necessary for every new academic year in college if students need financial aid throughout their degree program. Explore what FAFSA is, how to apply for it, and the deadlines students and parents should not miss. 

    What Is FAFSA

    Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is not a loan but instead a form to fill out online. You can access it via the government website, myStudentAid mobile app or via calling 1-800-433-3243.

    The Department of Education uses the form to determine the ideal Student Financial Aid options.

    What Are The Eligibility Requirement for FAFSA

    The Federal Student Aid handles over 20 million FAFSA applications every year from within the United States Department of Education. Given FAFSA is mandatory for merit-based and work-study programs, the application process is thorough.

    Even if a family’s income is well above $200,000 per year, FAFSA can open doors to Federal loans at low-interest rates. It can assist with financing a college degree without being an unnecessary burden, unlike some other lending alternatives.

    To be eligible for FAFSA, current and prospective students should satisfy the following criteria: 

    • Applicants must be a US citizen, national, or an eligible non-citizen.
    • Applicants can prove SAP (Satisfactory Academic Progress) with a minimum GPA of 2.0 and above, 75% and above Pace, 134% and above Maximum Timeframe.
    • Applicants must have a GED or high school diploma. 
    • Applicants require a Social Security number;
    • Applicants must be registered with the Selective Service System.  
    • Applicants must not have a record of associated with the possession/sale of illegal drugs during the time of receiving the federal aid.
    • Applicants must sign certification statements asserting two things. First, they have not failed to make payments on a federal student loan at present and do not owe money on any federal grants.
    • Second, the federal student support you receive will be strictly used for academic purposes.

    Military veteran-students can also access financial aid, academic or housing benefits by completing the FAFSA form.

    How to Apply With These Easy Steps

    FAFSA takes the finances plus tax returns of the student and his/her parents into account to determine the right loan or aid. This is why FAFSA applicants must have a parent or guardian around when filling out the application form. 

    Read on to review the complete process of applying for FAFSA and the five easy steps that accompany the process.

    Step 1: Round Up The Information

    The first step of the application process is for students and parents to sit together and compile the relevant information and financial details. The following list covers the documents needed to be filled out:


    • Shortlisted colleges
    • Social Security Number
    • Driver’s License 
    • Personal Income, If Available 
    • W-2 Form
    • Federal Income Tax Returns (Previous Year’s)
    • Investment Records and Bank Statements


    • Family Income 
    • Family Size 
    • Federal Income Tax Returns (Previous Year’s)
    • Investment Records and Bank Statements
    • W-2 Form

    Step 2: Create a Federal Student Aid ID

    For Students:

    Go to the Federal Student Aid website and click on, ‘Create Your FSA ID Now’. Complete the application and the FSA will take up to three days to verify the information and get back to you. 

    For Parents:

    Parents, remember that for this step, only students can make their FSA ID. Once this is completed, parents can start using FAFSA with the information provided by the students. 

    Step 3: Starting The FAFSA Form

    Head over to the website and login with the student or parent FSA ID.


    • Choose your type of FAFSA by the year required
    • Complete the Demographics Information
    • Select up to 10 schools (prospective students) on the FAFSA form or the school you’re attending (current students)
    • Don’t forget to hit the Save key when taking a break
    • Answer up to 10 questions about dependency status
    • Fill financial information from the IRS Data Retrieval Tool


    • Fill in Parent Demographic questions up to 14
    • Browse the help and hints to find out more about guides to filling FAFSA forms
    • Financial Information from the IRS Data Retrieval Tool

    Step 4: Review and Crosscheck FAFSA

    This step involves both the parents and the students. Both parties need to review the FAFSA form to check for errors and correct any mistakes. Anything from wrong financial information to inaccurate school selections can impact the application, so this step is vital.

    Common errors on FAFSA forms include:

    • Choosing the wrong year for FAFSA
    • Digit transportation or jumbling digits and words
    • Entering the wrong personal and legal information 
    • Choosing the wrong marital status of the student and the parent
    • Wrong tax filing statutes 

    Step 5: Sign the Form and Click Submit

    Once the form is complete and has been saved, parents and students can complete the application by signing it and submitting it online. It takes 3 to 5 days to process online applications. Students can also send a hard copy after signing the FAFSA form but be sure to do so well in advance of the deadline because ordinary mail can take 7-10 days to arrive and process. 

    When To Fill Out FAFSA

    State and private colleges set their own respective deadlines for FAFSA applications. 

    FAFSA opens on October 1st, every year, for the year ahead. Hence, for the FAFSA 2020-2021 academic year, applications have been open since October 1st, 2019. Applicants can submit their FAFSA applications for 2020-2021 by midnight Central Time June 30, 2021. Additional aid is awarded to students who apply early. 

    For FAFSA 2019-2020, the opening date was October 1st, 2018 and the deadline for filing applications is June 30, 2020. 

    Please note that the above are FAFSA federal deadlines. Deadlines for FAFSA vary by the type of aid from federal, institutional and state colleges. 

    Special Deadlines

    Beyond the Federal FAFSA deadlines, there are also special deadlines that vary by state and educational institution. State-specific deadlines can be viewed directly on the FAFSA site while certain deadlines also vary by institution.  In the latter case, it is smart to contact the university directly to verify the relevant deadlines.

    What Are The Other Options Besides FAFSA

    To reduce costs and save money there are several viable alternatives to FAFSA you can pursue including:

    Scholarships: In this case, applicants should look for local scholarships rather than national-level ones at the Financial Aid Office of a specific college or apply for other external scholarship opportunities.

    Work on Campus: Doing part-time work on campus also qualifies you for a work-study program with additional benefits.

    Crowdfunding: Creating an online campaign for collecting donations towards a college fund is a popular option.

    Peer-to-Peer Lending: Check CommonBond and SoFi for peer-to-peer loans for school financial aid. They offer deferment and fixed rates as well. 

    Special Funds: Most colleges have exclusive funds that offer financial aid for students who need it. Students must check this out at their colleges.

    What’s Next After FAFSA

    Once students submit their completed Free Application for Federal Student Aid, a Student Aid Report or SAR is sent within 3 to 5 days. Federal Student Aid also sends an email explaining how to access the SAR. For applicants who provided no email, a hard copy will be sent within 7-10 days.

    Once the application is complete, the EFC or Expected Family Contribution will appear under SAR. Colleges use the EFC to calculate the grant amount, work-study loan or whichever financial aid option the student is eligible for. 

    Please note that EFC is not the amount the student or their family has to pay/earn. It is just a number for the colleges to make financial aid assessments. 

    The Bottom Line

    FAFSA is an application form available free of cost for students searching for financial aid. It is one of the fundamental applications for all types of financial aid from federal to state, and private. Hence, get your application ready today and be ahead of the curve using our handy guide.