Tips on Completing the FAFSA
The official deadline for submitting a FAFSA varies from state to state. To be safe, though, and to increase your chances of receiving financial aid, submit your FAFSA as soon after January 1 as possible. Funding for need-based financial aid is limited, and most awards are offered on a first-come, first-served basis. Your FAFSA filing date determines your place in line.
Although you can submit a paper application, there are many advantages to using FAFSA on the Web:
- You’ll get your Student Aid Report (SAR) sooner than with the paper form.
- FAFSA on the Web checks your answers before you submit your application, so there is less chance your application will be rejected because of missing or conflicting information.
- You can save application information for transmission at a later time.
Complete a Pre-Application Worksheet
FAFSA offers a nonsubmittable, help you complete the FAFSA. The information you’ll need to have on hand to complete this worksheet, as well as the FAFSA, includes:
- Your Social Security Number
- Your driver's license (if any)
- Your W-2 forms and other records of money earned
- Your Federal Income Tax Return - IRS form 1040
- Your parent's Federal Income Tax Return (if you are a dependent student)
- Your untaxed income records, such as Social Security, aid to dependent children, child support, welfare, pensions and veterans benefits.
- Bank and mortgage statements
- Business and investment records, including stocks, bonds, mutual funds and certificates of deposit.
- Alien registration card (if you are not a U.S. citizen)
Be sure to keep these records handy; you may need them again during the financial aid process.
The FAFSA requires tax return information, so you should file your tax return as soon as possible after January 1 to ensure the accuracy of the application. However, if you’re unable to file your tax returns that quickly, don’t wait to submit your FAFSA. Instead, estimate your income as accurately as possible, and submit the FAFSA as soon after January 1 as possible. You’ll be able to make corrections, if necessary, via fafsa Corrections on the Web or through your school’s financial aid office.
Avoid common mistakes
- Read the instructions carefully. The words “you” and ‘your” always refer to the student, whereas questions for parents will be specified.
- Don’t leave any fields on the FAFSA blank; instead, answer zero or “not applicable” if the question does not apply to you.
- Round to the nearest dollar, and do not use commas or decimal points.
- Proofread your application before you submit it. Double check your answers, and be sure your responses are legible.
- Make sure you (and your parents, if applicable) sign the FAFSA. If you submit your application electronically, print or save your confirmation for your records.
Reapply each year
You must reapply for federal aid each year by completing the FAFSA or, if you qualify, the Renewal FAFSA.