Answers to 16 Popular Questions regarding the FAFSA


At NerdWallet, we adhere to strict standards of editorial integrity that will help you decide with confidence. Many or all the products featured listed here are from our partners. Here’s how we earn money.

Filling out and submitting the disposable Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, is paramount for you to get educational funding to help purchase college should you or your family can’t foot the whole bill.

The Education Department provides over $125 billion in help to students each year. While the supply of cash isn’t infinite, all eligible educational funding applicants can get to get a slice of the action.

The way to obtain cash isn’t infinite, but all eligible applicants can get to obtain a piece of the pie.

The process?- and also the application itself?- could be confusing, here are solutions to 16 popular questions regarding the FAFSA.

Before you start

1. Why should I fill out the FAFSA?

Submitting the FAFSA is the only way to obtain federal educational funding, including Pell grants, work-study programs and federal student loans.

You also often need to file the FAFSA to be eligible for a state and institutional aid, for example scholarships.

2. My parents make too much money to be eligible for a a Pell grant. Should we still file the FAFSA?

All students should file the FAFSA, even when they believe their parents make too much money to qualify. That is because not every educational funding is dependant on need. For example, you could be eligible for a a merit scholarship that requires the FAFSA to be file.

If you don’t be eligible for a need-based aid programs, you normally can still borrow unsubsidized federal student loans.

3. Just how long will it decide to try submit the FAFSA?

The Education Department estimates it takes applicants less than an hour to fill out and submit the FAFSA. However it will give you longer if you’re not prepared for the process with all of required documentation and tax information.

4. When must i fill out the FAFSA?

Complete the FAFSA as near to the Oct. 1 start date as you possibly can every year to ensure you get the maximum amount of aid. In some states, educational funding is disbursed on a rolling basis. That means it’s first come, first served, so find out your state’s FAFSA deadline.

5. How do I begin the FAFSA?

To submit the FAFSA electronically, use the form around the website. Before you can submit, you’ll need an FSA ID. It is a password used to sign in to federal student aid websites. You’ll also need the FSA ID to electronically sign the FAFSA and promissory notes.

Alternatively, you can submit the FAFSA by mail. Download and complete a PDF copy or request a paper copy by calling 1-800-433-3243.

6. What documents should i file the FAFSA?

Before you complete the FAFSA, get all documents together to help make the process easier. U.S. citizens typically will need their Ssn, driver’s license number and tax and income records. Use the 2019-20 FAFSA checklist to find out exactly what you will need.

In the process

7. Am I considered an independent or dependent student?

You’re considered a completely independent student should you answer “yes” to the of the dependency status questions about the student aid website.

On the 2019-20 form, for example, if you were born before Jan. 1, 1996, you are considered an independent student. You’re also considered independent if you are married, a veteran, homeless, signed up for a graduate program, or else you provide a certain amount of support to dependents or children.

Take choose to pick the correct dependency status because it can impact just how much aid you receive.

8. My parents are separated or divorced. Which parent accounts for filling out the FAFSA?

The parent you’ve endured more in the last 12 months is responsible for filling out your FAFSA form, says Shawna Wells-Booth, the director of financial aid at Beacon College in Leesburg, Florida. “If you didn’t accept one parent a lot more than the other, give answers concerning the parent who provided more financial support during the past Twelve months or during the newest year that you actually received support from a parent,” Wells-Booth says. “If this parent is remarried as of today, answer the questions regarding that parent as well as your stepparent.”

You have to include information from both of your parents on the FAFSA if they are divorced or separated but still live together.

9. I can not get my parent’s financial information. Can one still apply for aid?

If you’re considered a dependent, you will need your parents’ financial information to access most financial aid. In case your parents decline to help, you may still file the FAFSA and may get unsubsidized student education loans.

On the FAFSA, answer “no” when you’re asked if you can provide information about your folks. Additionally you should answer “no” when inquired about special circumstances if you do not meet those standards. Special circumstances include in case your parents have been in prison or if you have no idea where your folks are. Then you can submit the FAFSA without their information. It will likely be as much as your college to find out if you’re able to have an unsubsidized education loan. You will need to contact the school’s financial aid office as quickly as possible to discuss getting approved for a loan.

10. Is there a way to understand how much aid I will receive?

You may use the FAFSA4caster tool to estimate the type and quantity of aid you may qualify to receive. Once you submit the FAFSA, you will get your Federal Student Aid report. It has all the answers you provided around the FAFSA and the amount your folks are expected to pay, known as your “expected family contribution.” If you don’t have an EFC, your FAFSA likely contains a mistake you need to correct. Colleges make use of the information in your are accountable to determine the aid you be eligible for a.

11. I’m already attending school. Do I need to complete another FAFSA?

Yes. If you want to keep getting federal loans and grants, you’ll have to apply for financial aid each year. Because it won’t be your first time completing the FAFSA, you already know what to expect. And if your parents’ income hasn’t changed since this past year, you’ll likely receive a comparable quantity of student aid.

12. My parents haven’t filed their taxes. What information must i use?

Don’t wait for them to file taxes before you decide to submit the FAFSA. Filers must report prior-prior-year taxes. For instance, on the 2019-20 FAFSA form, you need to report 2017 tax information.

You can import tax information in to the FAFSA form using the IRS data retrieval tool. Whenever you sign in for your application, you’ll see a “Link to IRS” button if you are eligible to use the tool. Should you aren’t eligible, you will need to have that tax information on hand.

13. Which schools should I send FAFSA information to basically don’t know where I wish to visit college?

Uncertainty about in which you plan to apply shouldn’t prevent you from submitting the FAFSA. Should you submit the shape online, you can FAFSA codes for up to 10 schools where you intend to apply. If you file a paper form, you can include up to four schools. If you need to increase the schools, you could update your FAFSA at

Search for school codes on your online application. Paper filers can look up the codes around the Federal Student Aid website.

After submitting your application

14. When am i going to receive my FAFSA results?

Your results, referred to as your Student Aid Report, will arrive by email or mail between three days and three weeks once you submit the shape, depending on the application method.

The report provides basic details about financial aid eligibility, including your answers to questions about the FAFSA. It also specifies your expected family contribution, which is the amount your family be forced to pay toward your education. Colleges use your EFC to determine your financial aid package.

Once you get your Student Aid Report, make sure all the details is accurate. If you find inaccuracies, update your FAFSA.

15. How can I make changes towards the FAFSA once i send it in?

Sign directly into to update information if you find any errors, if your family’s finances changes or if you wish to send your Student Aid Are accountable to more schools. Around the “My FAFSA” page, click “Make FAFSA Corrections,” enter your FSA ID, alter the information and resubmit your application.

16. How do I accept or decline an economic aid offer?

Once you select a college to go to and get an aid offer, you must indicate what help you want to use for the upcoming school year. Accept help with this order: grant and scholarship money, work-study, subsidized federal student loans after which unsubsidized federal student loans.

If you’ve payment gaps you can’t fill with savings or income, consider a private education loan. Private loans are not available with the FAFSA process. You will need to investigate the chance of getting private loans from banks, lending institutions or online lenders. Compare interest rates, repayment options and protections, for example forbearance, before selecting a private loan.


What’s next?

  • Want to do this?

    Use NerdWallet’s FAFSA guide to prepare yourself to file

  • Want to dive deeper?

    Learn why you need to file the FAFSA every year

  • Want to explore related?

    Find out more about your Student Aid Report