8 Easy Steps for Parents Completing the FAFSA® Form

FAFSA® Tips9 minutes

Parents completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form for the first time can follow eight simple steps to help their children obtain federal student aid. These steps include creating your FSA ID (account username and password) ahead of time, filling out the demographics section, and listing financial information correctly.

After all, students who are considered dependent must provide parental information on the FAFSA form and have a parent sign the form. While we recommend that the student start his or her own FAFSA form, we know that isn’t how it always happens. Follow these instructions if you are starting the FAFSA form on behalf of your child to avoid running into issues completing the form.


Create an account username and password (FSA ID).

An FSA ID is an account username and password you use on StudentAid.gov. If your child is a dependent student, two unique FSA IDs are necessary to complete the FAFSA form online:

  1. Parent’s FSA ID
  2. Student’s FSA ID

We recommend that you and your child register for FSA IDs early so you don’t experience delays later in the process.

IMPORTANT: Your child must create his or her own FSA ID. You cannot create an FSA ID for your child. Also, when you register, you’ll be asked to provide an email address and mobile phone number. This is optional but highly recommended. These two items must be unique to each account. In other words, your email address and mobile phone number cannot be associated with more than one FSA ID.

Your FSA ID serves as your legal electronic signature throughout the federal student aid process. Do not share your FSA ID with anyone even your child. Your child also should not share his or her FSA ID with you. Keep your FSA ID secure. You’ll need it to renew your child’s FAFSA form each year and to access federal student aid information online.

The FAFSA form is the student’s application and not yours. When the FAFSA form says “you” or “your,” it’s referring to the student (unless otherwise noted).


Start the FAFSA® form at StudentAid.gov

  • Go to StudentAid.gov. Select “Apply for Aid” and then “Complete the FAFSA Form” along the top of the page. Next, select “Start Here” under “New to the FAFSA Process?”
  • Once you’re on the log in page, you will see three options. If you are starting the FAFSA form on behalf of your child, choose the middle option, “I am a parent filling out a FAFSA form for a student.”
The FAFSA® form login screen lets you select your role, such as student, parent or a preparer.
Choose whether you are the student or the parent on the first page of the FAFSA form
  • Enter your child’s name, Social Security number, and date of birth. Then, select “Continue.”
  • Choose which FAFSA form you’d like to complete.
    • 2021–22 FAFSA form if your child will be attending college between July 1, 2021, and June 30, 2022. 
    • 2022–23 FAFSA form if your child will be attending college between July 1, 2022, and June 30, 2023. 
      • Both: If your child will be attending college during both time periods and hasn’t completed the 2021–22 FAFSA form yet. Complete that form first, wait until it processes (one to three days), and then go back in and complete the 2022–23 FAFSA form afterwards.
      • Were you given the option to submit a FAFSA Renewal?
        If your child is present, you should choose this option. If you do, a lot of the demographic information required will prepopulate. Your child must be present because he or she will need to enter the student’s FSA ID to continue. If your child is not present, you should select “Start a New FAFSA Form.”
  • Create a save key. A save key is a temporary password that allows you and your child to “pass” the FAFSA form back and forth. It also allows you to save your child’s FAFSA form and return to it later. Once you create a save key, share it with your child. He or she will need it to complete some steps later.

Avoid Avoid simultaneous log ins. You and your child should not fill out the FAFSA form online at the same time. Your progress can be lost if your child selects “Save” at a different point in the application.


Fill out the “Student Demographics” section.

After the introduction page, you will proceed to enter basic demographic information about your child, such as name, date of birth, etc. If you chose the FAFSA renewal option in step two, a lot of his or her personal information will prepopulate to save you time. Make sure you enter your child’s personal information exactly as it appears on his or her Social Security card to avoid errors. (That’s right, no nicknames.)


List the schools that will receive your FAFSA® information.

In the “School Selection” section, you’ll add all the schools that you want to receive your child’s FAFSA information. It is important that you add every school your child is considering, even if he or she hasn’t applied or been accepted yet. It doesn’t hurt to add more schools; colleges can’t see the other ones. In fact, you don’t even have to remove schools if your child later decides not to apply or attend. If your child doesn’t end up applying or getting accepted to a school, the school can disregard the FAFSA form. You can remove schools at any time to make room for new ones. You can add up to 10 schools at a time. If your child is applying to more than 10 schools, consider these options.


Answer the dependency status questions.

In this section, you’ll respond to a series of specific questions to determine whether it’s necessary for your child to provide your (parent) information on the FAFSA® form

  • The U.S. Congress sets these dependency guidelines. They are different from those used by the IRS. 
  • Even if your child doesn’t live with you, supports himself or herself, and files taxes separately from you, we may still refer to them as a dependent student for federal student aid purposes. 
  • If your child is a dependent student, he or she will need to report information about you. If your child is  an independent student, you can skip the questions about providing parent information (unless otherwise noted by the school). 


Fill out the “Parent Demographics” section.

The “Parent Demographics” section is where you’ll provide your own demographic information. Are you divorced? Remarried? Below is a guide to help determine which parent’s information is necessary to include on your child’s FAFSA form. For specific guidance, review our “Reporting Parent Information” page

Infographic that explains who the parent is when filling out the FAFSA form for federal student aid
Determine who the parent is when filling out the FAFSA® form with this simple infographic.


Provide your financial information.

This step is incredibly simple if you use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT). The IRS DRT allows you to import your IRS tax information into the FAFSA® form within a few clicks. Using this tool may also reduce the amount of paperwork you need to give your child’s school. So, if you’re eligible, use it!

To access the tool, indicate that you’ve “already completed” taxes on the parent finances page. If you’re eligible, you’ll see an option to “Link to IRS.”

The FAFSA® Student Filing Status page links to the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.
The IRS DRT helps pull in financial data to the FAFSA® form automatically.

Next, you’ll likely need to provide your child’s financial information.

  • If your child filed taxes, the easiest way to complete this section is to use the IRS DRT. However, it is important that your child is present because he or she needs to provide his or her FSA ID to use this tool. If your child is not present, save and exit the application and instruct your child to log in with his or her FSA ID, retrieve the FAFSA form using the save key, and then, use the IRS DRT to complete the FAFSA form and sign it.
  • If your child did not file taxes, you can enter his or her financial information manually (if you have access to the required information). If you don’t have access to the information, save and exit the application, and instruct your child to log in with his or her FSA ID, retrieve the FAFSA form using the save key, complete the FAFSA form, and sign it.

If you need to save and exit your child’s FAFSA® form so he or she can complete the remaining information, you’ll need to log back in and sign your child’s FAFSA form before your child can submit it. 


Sign your child’s FAFSA form.

Both you and your child need to sign the FAFSA form. The quickest and easiest way to sign your child’s FAFSA form is online with your FSA ID. 

If your child is not present, here’s what you do:

  1. Sign your child’s FAFSA form with your FSA ID first.
  2. Save and exit the application.
  3. Instruct your child to log in using his or her FSA ID, and sign the FAFSA form. 

Sign and Submit Tips:

  • If you or your child forgot your FSA ID, you can retrieve it.
  • Make sure you and your child don’t mix up your FSA IDs. This mistake is one of the most common errors we see, and why it’s extremely important for each person to create his or her own FSA ID and to not share it with anyone. 
  • Make sure the parent who is using his or her FSA ID to sign the FAFSA form chooses the right parent number. If you don’t remember whether you are Parent 1 or Parent 2, you can go back to the parent demographics section to check.
The Signature Status page lets you sign and submit the FAFSA® form.
Don’t forget to have each parent sign and submit the FAFSA form.
  • If you get an error saying that your FSA ID information doesn’t match the information provided on the FAFSA form, here’s what you should do. Note: This is often the result of mixing up the student and parent FSA ID. 
  • We recommend signing the FAFSA form with an FSA ID because it’s the fastest way to get your child’s FAFSA form processed. However, if you and/or your child are unable to sign the FAFSA form electronically with an FSA ID, you can mail in a signature page. From the sign and submit page, select “Other options to sign and submit” and then choose “Print A Signature Page.” Just keep in mind that your child’s FAFSA form will take longer to process if you go this route. 
  • If you have multiple children who need to complete the FAFSA form, you can use the same FSA ID to sign FAFSA forms for all of your children. You can also transfer your information into your other children’s applications by choosing the option provided on the FAFSA confirmation.  However, you can only do this when you are in the parent role. 
The FAFSA® form page informs parents of multiple children that they can complete the FAFSA form for each child.
If you have multiple children in college, you can also transfer your information into your other children’s applications by choosing the option provided on the FAFSA confirmation.

Congrats, you completed the FAFSA form!

Your child is one step closer to getting money for college. Now that the hard part is over, learn what your child should do next after submitting the FAFSA form.