Completing the college FAFSA form looks intimidating but in reality, it is not difficult, as you will use your completed tax return from the prior year.
There are six steps to take to properly complete a FAFSA application form. After you submit your application you can also check the status of your FAFSA application online using your PIN Number.
See the FAFSA application.
University of California Berkeley
Also make sure that your name and its spelling is exactly the same way it appears on your social security card. Avoid using nicknames. If you have changed your name, you must update your records with the Social Security Administration.
You should apply for your FSA ID or FAFSA Application PIN Number , as well as FSA ID for your parent who is providing financial information, if you are a dependent student. A FSA ID is recommended if you submit an online FAFSA application, but is not required if you choose to mail in a printable FAFSA application. The FSA ID replaced the old FAFSA PIN number.
Collect your and your parents financial records if you had an income (from work, veteran’s benefits, or child support for example), or if you filed for federal tax return, as well as your parents’ federal tax return. These records include your W-2 forms, other records of income you have had, and your current bank statements for example. You will use your completed tax return from the prior year (e.g. 2017 tax return for the 2019-20 school year, 2018 tax return for the 2020-21 school year).
If you are not sure if you are a dependent or independent student, read this important information Dependent or Independent Student?
Be sure you know the deadline for financial aid in your state, as there are many state grants available for those who apply early. See FAFSA Deadline by State.
Also, since the amount of money in your bank account matters as of the date you submit the FAFSA, consider submitting when your account balance is low not high. For more information on this, see How to Reduce Your Expected Family Contribution.
Have an email address and provide it to receive your FAFSA results faster.
Have Your Driver’s License Number (optional but recommended)
Have your Alien Registration Number (if applicable)
Print and fill out a Printable FAFSA Application as a draft. That way you can easily see all the information that is required, and check the instructions if you have questions.
As an alternative, there is a FAFSA worksheet that is a shorter version, but I think most people will make fewer errors if they fill out the entire paper FAFSA first as a draft.
Allow about an hour to complete the online FAFSA form. Remember that the blue-colored questions are directed at the student (green on printed form) and the purple-colored questions are directed at the parents. Use your draft copy from the prior step to fill in the information. The online FAFSA may ask some questions in different order, and may skip some questions based upon your answers. Make sure that you read the questions carefully and answer them correctly because any mistake can delay the processing of your application which translates into missing the deadlines or losing out on some federal, state or private financial aid. There is also an option to use the IRS Data Retrieval tool (when available) to import tax information from your federal tax return. See our page on FAFSA Correction for more information on how to use this IRS tool.
FAFSA Application - The 2023-24 application is now available