A Step by Step Guide to Completing FAFSA

Time: 15 minutes

What’s FAFSA and why do I need it?

Every year the federal government awards 125 Billion in grants, loans, and work-study. Through completing the FAFSA form you are able to secure a portion of that for you. Even if you are worried your parents may make too much you can still qualify for work-study and loans with reduced interest rates. Also, you aid package is much more generous the sooner you apply.

Required Documents 

  • Students
    • Most Recent Tax Information (1040, W2, etc)
    • Social Security Number
    • Driver License Number (if applicable)
    • FSA ID Number
  • Parents
    • Most Recent Tax Information (1040, W2, etc)
    • Social Security Number
    • FSA ID Number

Step 1 Creating a FSA ID (Skip if you’ve done FAFSA before) 

Your FSA ID will be used to confirm your identity when accessing your financial aid information and electronically signing your federal aid documents.

Create Your FSA ID Here:


Step 2 Select the appropriate FAFSA form 

  • Create a New Form
    • Select your aid year
      • Choose 2018-19 if you will be attending college between July 1, 2018, and June 1, 2019
      • Choose 2017-18 if you will be attending college between July 1, 2017, and June 1, 2018
  • Renewal (If this is not your first time applying)
    • Selecting renewal allows your demographic information to be pre-populated thus saving time

Step 3 Student Eligibility 

Pretty basic information:

  • Name
  • High School
  • Year in College you will be entering
  • Parents Level of Education ( Some states offer additional funding for First Generation College Students)
  • Work Study
  • Opt-In For Selective Service (Military Draft) you will be denied federal funding if you select no

Step 4 School Selection 

You are able to select up to 10 schools and from there you will be asked whether you will live on campus, off campus or with your parents. This question is important to determine if you will need any additional funds for room and board.

Step 5 Dependency Determination 

  • If you can answer yes to any of the following you will be considered independent:
    •  24 years old by December of the aid year
    • A graduate or professional student during the award year
    • Married (or separated)
    • A parent or have dependents that receive more than half their support from you
    • An orphan or ward of the court
    • A veteran of the US Armed Forces
  • If you are considered independent you will not need any of your parent’s information.
  • If you are independent but not under the following conditions FAFSA does allow for special circumstances and additional information can be found here:

https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa/filling-out/parent-info#special-circumstancesStep 6

Step 6 Parent Demographics (Skip if you are considered an independent) 

Your parent’s demographic information is used to determine your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Factors to think about:

  • Older parents may contribute due to they are closer to retirement
  • Parents with multiple children income is divided to equally support each child in college
  • If parents are divorced or separated, choose the parent with whom you spend the greater of year with
  • If you parent has remarried they will be required the stepparent’s income and demographic information

Step 7 Financial Information 

Here is where you will need your’s and your parent’s tax information but tools such as the IRS Data Retrieval Tool make this process nearly seamless.

Step 8 Sign and Submit 

You will sign with your FSA ID and from there receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) 3-5 days later. Factors to think about:

Loan Limit based on dependency and year in college.


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