The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is the form that must be completed to apply and determine eligibility for federal, state, and college-specific financial aid, such as grants, loans and work-study programs. FAFSA worksheets are available at high schools, college financial aid offices, or local college access programs. FAFSAs may be filed online at www.fafsa.ed.gov.
Students are now able to submit a FAFSA earlier. Students have been able to file a 2017–18 FAFSA since Oct. 1, 2016, rather than beginning on Jan. 1, 2017. The earlier submission date is a permanent change, enabling students to complete and submit a FAFSA as early as Oct. 1 every year.
Completing the FAFSA is much easier than many students and parents may believe; preparation is key. Federal Student Aid Identification (FSA ID) accounts for the students and parents are required for signing the FAFSA electronically and may be created at fsaid.ed.gov.
Other important information and documentation necessary for completion of the FAFSA include the following:
- Social Security numbers and birthdates of the student and parent(s)
- Most recent W-2(s) and federal income tax return(s) for the student and parent(s)
- Current bank statements
- Student's driver's license number
- Records of untaxed income
- Value of business and farm (exclude family farm)
- Value of investments (exclude retirement plans and home equity)
The 2016-2017 FAFSA on the Web Worksheet is now available to download. The Worksheet is not intended to be a duplicate of the paper FAFSA; families are encouraged to complete the form and use it as a guide when you are working with the FAFSA on the Web.
The FAFSA should be completed and submitted to the federal processor prior to the FAFSA deadlines established by each college to which the student has applied. Up to ten (10) different colleges may be listed on the FAFSA to electronically receive the Student Aid Report (SAR), which will include the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) figure. The EFC is an estimate of the amount of money the student's family should be able to provide for one year of higher education, based upon the data in the FAFSA.
The SAR is usually available within a few days after submission of the FAFSA. The report acknowledges that the application was processed, and can be used to make corrections to the FAFSA. The PIN(s) may be used to make online changes to the FAFSA and to file future FAFSAs on an annual basis. Colleges may request federal tax returns or other documents to verify FAFSA information. Each college which has accepted the student for admission and has received FAFSA data will send the student an official financial aid award letter which will provide details of the financial assistance the college is offering.
All colleges use the Financial Need formula to award financial aid. Simply it is as follows:
Cost of Education (COE) - Expected Family Contribution (EFC) = Financial Need
The FAFSA will calculate the EFC, and the college will subtract this amount from its COE. This determines how much financial aid will be offered. The colleges will come as close as possible to meeting the student's Financial Need relative to the college's costs.