The first step in applying for financial aid is to complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), which collects information about you and your family's financial situation.
You should complete the FAFSA as soon as possible after October 1 in the year before you are requesting aid. Check with the schools you're interested in attending and your state department of higher education for specific deadlines (some state deadlines are online).
- Apply for an FSA ID at fsaid.ed.gov. The FSA ID allows you to sign the FAFSA electronically.
- Complete the FAFSA at www.fafsa.gov as soon as possible after October 1 the year before you are requesting aid.
- Check with the school you are attending and your state department of higher education for specific deadlines.
- Have the following items [for you and your parent(s), if applicable, on
hand when you prepare to complete the FAFSA:
- 2015 Income tax return if unable to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool
- Other records of money earned, including untaxed income
- Current bank statements
- Business and farm records
- Records of investments
- Drivers' licenses
- Social Security cards
- Dates of birth
- Answer all questions.
- Sign the FAFSA electronically with your FSA ID. If you cannot use an FSA ID, you can print, sign, and mail the signature page.
- Watch for your Student Aid Report (SAR) to arrive a few weeks after submitting your completed and signed FAFSA.
- Review the financial aid award letter you receive from each college listed on your FAFSA. The colleges you list on the FAFSA automatically receive your results and use them to prepare your financial aid package. The award letter lists the financial aid you are eligible to receive at that college.
Keep in mind:
- If you filed a FAFSA in the previous academic year and provided your e-mail address, you will receive a Renewal FAFSA notification in February from the U.S. Department of Education. When you file your FAFSA online for the current year, the majority of your data will be pre-filled - all you'll need to do is make the necessary corrections/revisions before electronically signing and submitting.
- If you do not receive your SAR within four weeks after the date you submit your FAFSA, check the status of your application by calling the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4 FED-AID.