7 Things You Need Before Filling Out the 2020–21 FAFSA® Form

If you need financial aid to help pay for college, you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. The 2020–21 FAFSA form is available beginning Oct. 1, 2019. You should fill it out as soon as possible on or after Oct. 1 at the official government site, fafsa.gov.

It’ll be easier to complete the FAFSA form if you gather what you need ahead of time. Here’s what you’ll need to fill it out.

1. Your FSA Account 

If you haven’t already, create a Federal Student Aid (FSA) account by setting up a username and password. Each student, and—if you’re a dependent—one of your parents, will need an FSA account (also known as an FSA ID) to complete the FAFSA process on fafsa.gov. We recommend creating your account early—even before you’re ready to complete the FAFSA form—to avoid delays in the process. That’s because you may need to wait up to three days to use your FSA account after creating it.

Create an FSA Account

IMPORTANT: Do NOT create an FSA account on behalf of someone else. That means parents should not create FSA accounts for their children and vice versa. Doing so may result in issues signing and submitting the FAFSA form and could lead to financial aid delays. (Also, it’s against the rules to create an FSA account for someone else.)

2. Your Social Security Number

You can find the number on your Social Security card. If you don’t have access to it or you don’t know where it is, you can request a new or replacement card from the Social Security Administration. If you are not a U.S. citizen but meet Federal Student Aid’s other eligibility criteria, you’ll also need your Alien Registration number. Both parents and students need this information for the FAFSA form.

3. Your Driver’s License Number

If you don’t have a driver’s license, don’t worry about this step.

4. Your 2018 Tax Records

On the 2020–21 FAFSA form, you (and your parents if you are a dependent student) will report your 2018 income information.

  • Since you’ll probably already have filed your 2018 taxes by the time the FAFSA form is available, you may be eligible to import your tax information into the FAFSA form right away using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT).
  • Not everyone is eligible to use the IRS DRT; and the IRS DRT does not input all the financial information required on the FAFSA form. Therefore, you should have your 2018 tax return and 2018 IRS W-2 available for reference.

The IRS DRT is the fastest, most accurate way to input your tax return information into the FAFSA form. To address security and privacy concerns related to the IRS DRT, the tax return information you transfer from the IRS will not display on

  • You cannot useyour 2019 tax information. We understand that for some families, 2018 income doesn’t accurately reflect your current financial situation. If you have experienced a reduction in income since the 2018 tax year, you should complete the FAFSA form with 2018 information, and then contact each of the schools to which you’re applying to explain and document the change in income. Schools have the ability to assess your situation and adjust your FAFSA form if warranted.
  • You cannot update your 2020-21 FAFSA form with your 2019 tax information after you file your 2019 tax return. The 2020-21 FAFSA form requires only 2018 tax information.

5. Records of Your Untaxed Income

The FAFSA questions about untaxed income, such as child support, interest income, and veterans’ non-education benefits, may or may not apply to you. On the 2020-21 FAFSA form, you’ll report 2018 tax or calendar year information when asked these questions. Find specific details that pertain to parents and students.

6. Records of Your Assets (Money)

This section includes savings and checking account balances, as well as the value of investments such as stocks, bonds, and real estate excluding your primary residence. Report the current amounts as of the date you sign the FAFSA form, rather than reporting the 2018 tax year amounts.

Note: Misreporting the value of investments is a common FAFSA mistake. Please carefully review what is and is not considered a student investment and parent investment to make sure you don’t over- or under-report. You may be surprised by what can (and cannot) be excluded.

7. List of the School(s) You Are Interested in Attending

Be sure to add any college you’re considering, even if you haven’t applied or been accepted yet.

  • Even if there is only a slight chance you’ll apply to a college, list the school on your FAFSA form. You can always remove a school later if you decide not to apply, but if you wait to add a school, you could miss out on financial aid.
  • The schools you list on your FAFSA form will automatically receive your FAFSA results electronically. They will use your FAFSA information to determine the types and amounts of financial aid you may receive.
  • If you add a school to your FAFSA form and later decide not to apply for admission to that school, that’s OK! The school likely won’t offer you aid until you’ve been accepted anyway.
  • You can list up to 10 schools at a time on your FAFSA form. If you’re applying to more than 10 schools, here’s what you should do.

TIP:  To be considered for state aid, several states require you to list schools in a particular order (for instance, you might need to list a state school first). Find out whether your state has a requirement for the order in which you list schools on your FAFSA form.


Ready to Start?

Once you’re ready, you have several ways to complete the FAFSA form, including the fafsa.gov website or the myStudentAid mobile app. Using the app, you can fill out the FAFSA form safely and securely from your mobile device. The app also allows you to manage your FSA account, view your federal student aid history and loan information, and more. The myStudentAid app is available from both the Apple App Store (iOS) and Google Play (Android).