Have you filled out your child or grandchild’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) yet? The FAFSA not only determines their eligibility for federal student aid, but many schools use the FAFSA to determine eligibility for scholarships, grants and additional loans.
As a reminder, the FAFSA deadline is June 30, 2021, at 11:59 p.m. Central Standard Time (CST). The deadline to make any corrections to your FAFSA is September 11, 2021, at 11:59 p.m. Central Standard Time (CST).
If you haven’t submitted a FAFSA for the 2020-2021 school year, you still have some time. However, the sooner you submit your FAFSA, the better.1 Students who file their FAFSA between October and December tend to receive more funding than people who file later, simply because federal, state and college-offered grants are often awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis.2
Whether you’re filling out your FAFSA for the first time or simply confirming your information from last year, there are a few things you can do ahead of time to help make the process easier. You can do everything online, from either your desktop computer or from their mobile app.
Use the steps below to walk through filling out your child’s FAFSA, it should take about 20-30 minutes to complete.
Step #1: Creating Your FSA ID
Creating a Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID isn’t required, but it can be a useful place to start. Having an FSA ID allows you to electronically sign your FAFSA letter and any loan documents you may receive. If your child will end up filling out the FAFSA at any time in the future, they will need their own FSA ID.
If you already started your FAFSA, you can set up your FSA along the way, but creating it ahead of time can make the process easier.
Step #2: Gather All Needed Documents
The FAFSA will determine financial aid eligibility based on your personal financial situation. You’ll need a few documents to prove your identity (your Social Security number and driver’s license number) as well as any supporting financial documents. Remember, if you plan on mailing in the FAFSA, do not send any of these documents in with your application.
You may need some (or all) of the following, depending on your situation:
- Federal tax information or tax returns including IRS W-2 information for you and your spouse
- IRS 1040
- Records of your untaxed income
- Asset information including things like cash, savings and checking account balances, investments and business and farm assets
Step #3: Selecting Colleges or Career Schools
To complete your FAFSA, at least one school must be selected. While the order doesn’t matter for federal aid, some states have different requirements to receive state funding. You can check online through the Department of Education to see if your state has this particular requirement.
Step #4: Transferring Your Tax Information
When filling out your FAFSA online, the IRS offers a Data Retrieval Tool (IRS DRT). Using the IRS DRT saves you the hassle of having to locate your tax records and instead connects you with the IRS database.
Step #5: Signing & Submitting Your FAFSA
Once you’ve filled out your FAFSA, you’re ready to sign and submit it. While you can print off the documents to sign and submit them through the mail, your FAFSA will likely be processed quicker if you sign and submit it online. You’ll be able to sign and submit your FAFSA electronically using the FSA ID you created earlier.
If you have other children in college, you can automatically transfer your information to another child’s FAFSA form if you filled the original FAFSA out online.
Remember, the FAFSA needs to be completed for every school year that your child attends. If you have questions about funding your child’s education, or need help with your FAFSA, reach out to your financial professional for guidance.