The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the form you need to fill out to get any financial aid from the federal government to help pay for college. Each year, over 13 million students who file the FAFSA get more than $120 billion in grants, work-study, and low-interest loans from the U.S. Department of Education. Lots of states and colleges also use the FAFSA to determine which students get financial aid—and how much they’ll get. The FAFSA asks for information about you and your family’s finances, including tax returns, so you’ll need your parents’ help to complete it.
Anyone planning on going to college in the next academic year should fill out the FAFSA. Here’s why:
There are three ways to complete and submit your FAFSA:
Fill out the FAFSA online or through the app. Both options offer useful tips to help you understand the questions, which can make it a lot easier to fill out and submit the application.
When you fill out the FAFSA electronically, you’ll be asked to create a federal student aid ID (FSA ID). You’ll use it to sign the electronic form. Because one of your parents also has to sign off on your FAFSA, they’ll need to create an FSA ID, too.
You can file as early as October 1 for the following academic year. It’s a good idea to submit the application as soon as possible because financial aid is often given out on a first-come, first-served basis.
There are three types of FAFSA deadlines:
Remember: You should send in your FAFSA as soon as you can, regardless of deadlines. There’s a lot of financial aid out there—give yourself the best shot at getting the most assistance by applying early.