8 Steps to Completing the FAFSA® Form

FAFSA® Tips8 minutes

Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form is the first step to obtaining federal student aid to pay for your college or career school. Follow these eight simple steps to set yourself up for success and submit the form on time. 

1

Create an FSA ID.

  • Student:An FSA ID is your account username and password. You need it to sign the FAFSA form online. If you don’t have an FSA ID, you can create an FSA ID online to complete federal student aid tasks. It takes about 10 minutes to create an FSA ID. 
  • Parent: If you are the parent, you need to create your own FSA ID to sign your child’s FAFSA form online. Create an FSA ID . As a parent, you’ll be able to use your FSA ID right away. 

Some of the most common FAFSA errors occur when the student and parent mix up their FSA IDs. If you don’t want your financial aid delayed, it’s extremely important that each parent and each student create his or her own FSA ID and not share it with anyone, including each other. 

2

Start the FAFSA® form at fafsa.gov.

The 2022–23 FAFSA form launched Oct. 1! Even if your state and school deadlines aren’t for a while, you should complete the FAFSA form as soon as possible. Some states and schools run out of financial aid early and have limited funds. So, don’t wait until the last minute to apply! 

  • If you are the student, select “I am a student and want to access the FAFSA form.” Then, log in using your FSA ID. 
  • If you are the parent, select “I am a parent filling out a FAFSA form for a student.” After selecting the parent role, you will need to provide your child’s name, their date of birth, and their Social Security number. 

TIP: If you’re the parent, read “8 Easy Steps for Parents Completing the FAFSA® form.” 

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.

Choose which FAFSA form you’d like to complete:

  • 2021–22 FAFSA formif you will be attending college between July 1, 2021, and June 30, 2022. 
  • 2022–23 FAFSA form if you will be attending college between July 1, 2022, and June 30, 2023.  
  • Both: If you will be attending college during both time periods and haven’t completed your 2021–22 FAFSA form yet, complete it first, wait one to three days until the form processes, and then go back and complete the 2022–23 FAFSA form. 

TIP: If you see the option to complete a “renewal” FAFSA form, choose that option. When you choose to renew your FAFSA form, your demographic information from the previous year will roll over into your new application, which saves you some time. 

Create a save key

  • Unlike the FSA ID, you can share the save key. A save key is a temporary password that allows you and your parent(s) to “pass” the FAFSA form back and forth. It also allows you to save the FAFSA form and return to it later. The key is especially helpful if you and your parent are not in the same place. 

Remember, the FAFSA form is not a “one-and-done” event. You must complete a FAFSA form each school year. 

3

Fill out the Student Demographics section.

The Student Demographics section includes your name, date of birth, etc. If you either completed the FAFSA form in the past or logged into the FAFSA form with your FSA ID, most of your personal information will prepopulate to save you time. Make sure you enter your personal information exactly as it appears on your Social Security card. (That’s right, no nicknames.)

Parents:
Remember that 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). Pay attention to whether you’re asked to provide student or parent information.

4

List the schools that will receive your FAFSA® information.

In the School Selection section, add every school you’re considering, even if you haven’t sent your application or received an acceptance letter. It doesn’t hurt your application to add more schools. School officials can’t see the other schools. 

In fact, you don’t even have to remove schools if you later decide not to apply or attend. If you don’t end up applying or getting accepted to a school, the school can just disregard your FAFSA form. However, you can remove schools at any time to make room for new schools. You can add up to 10 schools at a time.  If you’re applying to more than 10 schools, you have a few options.

5

Answer the dependency status questions.

In the dependency status section, you’ll need to respond to a  series of specific questions that determine whether you need to provide parent information on the FAFSA form. 

The U.S. Congress sets the dependency guidelines. They are different from the guidelines the IRS uses. Even if you live on your own, support yourself, and file taxes on your own, you may still be considered a dependent student for federal student aid purposes. If you are a dependent student, you’ll need to report information about your parent(s). If you are an independent student, you won’t have to provide parent information, and you can skip the next step. Learn about these dependency status questions and whether you’re a dependent or independent student

6

Fill out the Parent Demographics section.

Your parent(s) will need to provide basic demographic information. Remember, it doesn’t matter if you don’t live with your parent(s); you still must report information about them if you are a dependent student. 

Start by figuring out who counts as your parent on the FAFSA form. 

Dependent students can determine the parent information they should report on their FAFSA® form.
Determine who takes the parent role in the FAFSA form using this graphic.

We have a specific guidance you can read about reporting your parents’ information as a dependent student and what to do if you are not able to provide parent information due to special circumstances. 

7

Provide your financial information.

Next, you and your parent(s) (if applicable) will provide 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 with just a few clicks. Also, using this tool may reduce the amount of paperwork you need to provide to your school. So, make sure to use it, if you’re eligible. 

The IRS Data Retrieval Tool electronically transfers federal tax return information into your FAFSA® form.
You can easily transfer your tax information into your FAFSA form using the IRS DRT.

Once you have indicated that you have completed your taxes, you may be eligible to use the IRS DRT. If so, select the button to link to the IRS and follow the prompts. 

The FAFSA® Student Filing Status page links to the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.
Link to the IRS DRT to easily incorporate your income tax information into the FAFSA® form.

8

Sign and submit your FAFSA form.

You’re not finished with the FAFSA form until you (and your parent, if you’re a dependent student) sign the form. The quickest and easiest way to sign your FAFSA form is online with your FSA ID. 

Note: If you (the student) logged in to the FAFSA form with your FSA ID at the beginning, you won’t need to provide it again on this page. But, if you’re a dependent student, your parent will still need to sign it before you can completely submit the form. 

Sign and Submit Tips:

  • If you or your parent forgot your FSA ID, you can retrieve the account username and password
  • Make sure you and your parent don’t mix up your FSA IDs. This is one of the most common errors we see. This mistake is why it’s extremely important for each person to create his or her own FSA ID and 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 choice from the options. 
  • Here’s what you should do if you get an error saying that your FSA ID information doesn’t match the information provided on the FAFSA form. 
  • If you have siblings, your parent can use the same FSA ID to sign FAFSA forms for each child. Your parent can also transfer his or her information into your sibling’s application by choosing the option provided on the FAFSA confirmation page. 
The FAFSA® form page informs parents of multiple children that they can complete the FAFSA form for each child.
The FAFSA® form allows you to continue with state applications or for your parents to complete it for multiple children.
  • We recommend signing the FAFSA form with an FSA ID because it’s the fastest way to get your FAFSA form processed. However, if you and/or your parent 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 FAFSA form will take longer to process if you go this route. 
The Signature Status page lets you sign and submit the FAFSA® form.
Don’t forget to sign and submit the FAFSA® form.

I’m finished. What’s next? 

Congrats on finishing! You’re one step closer to getting money for college. Now that the hard part is over, learn what you should do next