How to Fill Out the FAFSA® Form When You Have Multiple Children

FAFSA® Tips6 minutes

There are four things you need to know about filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form if you have more than one child in college: 1. You and each of your children need a StudentAid.gov account (FSA ID), 2. Each of your children will need to fill out a FAFSA form with parent information, 3. You must report the value of your education savings accounts for all children combined, and 4. Having multiple children in college can affect your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Read on for more details.

Illustrative woman jumping on a bed with a hanging fern with a table covered in books. It reads “2021-22 FAFSA form: What You’ll Need,” and lists your Social Security number, bank statements and records of investments, 2019 federal income tax returns, W2s, and other records of money earned, a username and password (FSA ID), and records of untaxed income.
Before you fill out the FAFSA form, be sure to have ready all the things you’ll need.

1

You need StudentAid.gov accounts (FSA IDs) for each child and yourself.

An FSA ID is a username and password combination associated with your Social Security number. It serves as your legal electronic signature throughout the financial aid process. You AND each of your children will need your own FSA IDs.

2

A FAFSA® form is required for each child.

Each of your children will need to fill out a FAFSA form. Your children will need to provide your (parent) information on their 2021–22 FAFSA forms unless they are going to graduate school, were born before Jan. 1, 1998, or can answer “yes” to any of these dependency status questions.

Note: This transfer option is available on fafsa.gov but it is NOT currently available on the myStudentAid app.

TIP: If you want the process to go as smoothly as possible, your second child should have his or her FSA ID handy so you’re ready for the next step.

Screenshot of the FAFSA form confirmation page with next steps titled “What Happens Next.” They include receiving a Student Aid Report (SAR) notifying you that your FAFSA was processed, and contacting your school if you have nay more questions about your financial aid package.
When you have successfully completed the FAFSA form, you’ll see this confirmation page.

However, you can transfer users during one FAFSA session. After you’re done filling out the FAFSA form for one child, you can select an arrow, a new window will open, and your other child will start his or her FAFSA form. We recommend that your child starts the FAFSA form by entering his or her FSA ID (not your FSA ID) using the (I am the student) option in the image below. However, if you are starting your child’s FAFSA form, choose the other option (I am a parent, preparer, or student from a Freely Associated State), and enter your child’s information.

Screenshot of the login page of the FAFSA form
When you log in to the FAFSA form, you’ll be asked whether you are the student or the parent borrower.

Regardless of who starts the application from this screen, the FAFSA form remains the student’s application; so, when the FAFSA form says “you,” it’s referring to the student. If the FAFSA form is asking for parent information, it will specify that. When in doubt, refer to the ribbon at the top left of the screen. It will indicate whether you’re being asked to provide student or parent information.

After you select the FAFSA form you’d like to complete and create a save key, you’ll be brought to the introduction page, which will indicate that parental data was copied into your second child’s FAFSA form.

Once you reach the parent information page, you will see your information prepopulated. Verify this info, proceed to sign and submit the FAFSA form, and you’re done!

3

You must report the combined value of your education savings accounts for all children.

You must report the value of all education savings accounts owned by you, your child, or any other dependent children in your household as a parent investment. (Check out “What is the net worth of your parents’ investments?”.) If you have education savings accounts for multiple children, you must report the combined current value of those accounts, even if some of those children are not in college yet or are not completing a FAFSA form.

Example: Child 1 and 2 are filling out the FAFSA form. Child 3 is in 8th grade. They each have education savings accounts in their names.

  • Child 1 account balance: $20,000
  • Child 2 account balance: $13,000
  • Child 3 account balance: $8,000

You would add $41,000 to any other parent investments you’re required to report and input it when asked, “What is the net worth of your parents’ investments?” on each of your children’s FAFSA forms.

4

Multiple children can impact your Expected Family Contribution (EFC).

Having multiple children enrolled in college at the same time could have an impact on your children’s eligibility for need-based federal financial aid.

Don’t ever assume your child won’t qualify for aid, especially if they didn’t qualify the previous year. This is a huge mistake, especially if you will have additional children entering college.

Schools use the following formula to determine how much aid your child is eligible to receive. Cost of attendance (COA) – Expected Family Contribution (EFC) = financial need

Let’s break down this formula:

  • COAThis will vary by school, so if you have two children attending different schools with different costs, their financial need may be different, even if their EFC is the same.
  • EFC: The information you provide on the FAFSA form is used to calculate your child’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Since we recognize that as a parent, your annual ability to pay per child decreases as you have more children enroll in college, we divide the expected parent contribution portion by the number of children you expect to have in college. This is how much you are expected to contribute.

Example: Let’s assume that all your dependent children have identical financial information and that the calculated EFC with one child in college would be $10,000. Here’s how each child’s EFC would change depending on the number of family members attending college full-time.

What’s the formula to determine your financial aid? Here’s an example. Let’s say your cost of attendance (COA) is $36,880 and your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is $26,500. Subtract your EFC from your COA to get your financial need of $10,380.
The formula that determines your financial aid involves taking your school’s cost of attendance and subtracting your Expected Family Contribution (EFC).
  • Financial need:  Schools differ (sometimes greatly) in their ability to meet each student’s financial need. To compare average school costs, visit the College Scorecard.