FAFSA, or The Free Application to Federal Student Aid, is a form that current and prospective college students fill out to determine their eligibility for student financial aid. That money can be put towards tuition or room and board (if you choose to live on campus). Whether you think you will be able to get any financial aid or not, it is important to fill out the FAFSA because you might qualify for aid and some schools require it to be eligible for merit-based financial aid. Here are the 5 steps to filling out the form:
Step 1: Gather Financial Documents
To calculate the amount of financial assistance you qualify for there are certain documents you need to submit to determine your family’s financial status. The documents you need are:
Social Security Number (student and Parent/Guardian if applicable)
Alien Registration Number (for Non-U.S citizens)
Federal Income Tax Returns, W-2s, and any other record of money earned
Bank Statements and records of investments
Records of any untaxed income
Step 2: Create a Federal Student Aid ID
Go to the FAFSA website where you and your parent/guardian (if applicable) can create a Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID. From there you can create a username and password and log in and out as you wish.
Step 3: List the schools you want to send you FAFSA information to
List out all the schools you are applying to in the appropriate section. The FAFSA allows you to list up to ten schools. Also, it is important to note that some states require that you list your in-state schools first to be eligible for state grant aid. However, in Virginia, the order in which you list your colleges does not impact your eligibility for state aid.
Step 4: Fill out the FAFSA
The FAFSA is broken up into seven different sections, make sure to fill out the information in each section accurately.
Student Demographics: full name, date of birth, email address, telephone number, social security number, gender, driver’s license number, marital status, citizenship status, education history, and work-study interest.
School Selection: The name of the high school you currently attend and the colleges you are planning to apply to.
Dependency Status: Whether you have any children or dependents and the size of the household.
Parent Demographics: The parent(s) full name, date of birth, email address, telephone number, social security number, gender, driver’s license number, marital status, citizenship status, education history, and work-study interest. (Note: This only is applicable if you are a dependent)
Financial Information: You or your parent/guardian can use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool or input the information from their W-2 manually.
Step 5: Submit FAFSA form
When you are finished filling out all the sections above, sign and submit your application. You should receive a confirmation email when your FAFSA has been completed. Once your application has been processed you should receive their Student Aid Form which includes your expected family contribution and whether or not you are eligible for any Pell Grants. It typically takes 3-5 days for your online application to process and up to ten days for paper applications. The colleges will use the student aid form to determine how much money to provide.
Remember, the FAFSA is an extremely important part of the college application process. It is completely free to fill out, and even if you do not think you are eligible it can only help you. If you have any more questions feel free to visit the College and Career Center, and they can help with any specific questions or concerns.