15 Frequently Asked FAFSA Questions

Millions of dollars are left on the table each year because families don’t fill out the form. FAFSA is the gateway to more than $150 billion in federal student loans, work-study funds, and college grants. That’s some serious money on the line! We’ve answered 15 of the most frequently asked questions to help you complete the FAFSA. 

1. Is it necessary to have an FSA ID?

The FAFSA® form can be signed electronically if you have an FSA ID, a username, and a password. FSA IDs can also be used to access the myStudentAid app, sign loan contracts, and access certain information online. It only takes a few minutes to create your FSA ID before you start the FAFSA® form.

2. What information is needed to apply for federal financial aid?

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Based on your dependency status, you and your parents will need to provide information from the previous year’s tax return, gross income, bank account balance, investments, your social security number, and recurring expenses.

3. What are the eligibility requirements for federal financial aid?

You must meet the following requirements to qualify for federal financial aid:

  • Must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or eligible noncitizen
  • Have your high school diploma or be on track to get one
  • Acceptance or enrollment in a Title IV college or university
  • If you’re a male student, join Selective Service
  • Maintain satisfactory academic progress in college or graduate school. Financial aid and FAFSA loans are not available if your GPA is too low

4. When should I submit the FAFSA?

FAFSA applications typically open on Oct. 1 and close the following June 30. For the 2021-2022 school year FAFSA applications can be submitted between October 1, 2021, and June 30, 2022. 

5. Do all states and schools have the same FAFSA deadline?

The FAFSA deadline and opening date are the same for everyone. FAFSA filing for the academic year 2022-23 opened on Oct. 1, 2021. To be eligible, the FAFSA form must be submitted before July 1, 2023. There are, however, states and colleges that set earlier deadlines for financial aid. Your college may have its own FAFSA deadline. It’s a good idea to submit the FAFSA as close as possible to Oct. 1 because some financial aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. Filling out the FAFSA early will allow you to compare financial aid offers from multiple colleges. You’ll then be able to choose a school more easily.

 6. How much does the FAFSA cost?

FAFSA forms are free to fill out. When you receive a call or email about paying for the FAFSA form, it’s either a scam or a company offering to help you complete it for a fee. If you need help completing the FAFSA, you can contact your high school counselor, a college financial aid office, or the Federal Student Aid Information Center at (800) 433-3243.

7. What documents do I need to complete the FAFSA?

On the FAFSA, you have to provide information about yourself (your name, address, date of birth, etc.) and your financial circumstances.

In filling out the application, you might need the following information or documents (for example, whether you’re a U.S. citizen or what tax form you used):

  • You must enter your Social Security number correctly on the FAFSA form!
  • In the case of a dependent student, your parents’ Social Security numbers
  • The number on your driver’s license, if you have one
  • In the case of non-citizens, your Alien Registration number
  • Information about your federal income tax returns, including IRS W-2s for you (and your spouse, if you are married) and for your parents (if you are a dependent student):
    • 1040 IRS
    • Tax return for foreign income, IRS 1040NR, or IRS 1040NR-EZ
    • The tax return for Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the  Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, or Palau
  • Information about your untaxed income, such as child support received, interest income, and veteran’s noneducation benefits for you and your parents if you are a dependent student
  • If you are a dependent student, you and your parents will need to provide information about cash, savings and checking account balances, investments, stocks, bonds, real estate (but not your residence), and business and farm assets.

8. How do I know if I am a dependent or independent student?

The FAFSA form asks a series of questions to determine whether you are an independent student or a dependent student. You must answer no to all of the questions in order to be considered a dependent student. 

  • Will you be 24 or older by Jan. 1 of the school year for which you are applying for financial aid? For example, if you plan to start school in August 2022 for the 2022–23 school year, will you be 24 by Jan. 1, 2022 (i.e., were you born before Jan. 1, 1999)?
  • Are you married or separated but not divorced?
  • Will you be working toward a master’s or doctorate degree (such as M.A., MBA, M.D., J.D., Ph.D., Ed.D., etc.)?
  • Do you have children who receive more than half of their support from you?
  • Do you have dependents (other than children or a spouse) who live with you and receive more than half of their support from you?
  • Are you currently serving on active duty in the U.S. armed forces for purposes other than training?
  • Are you a veteran of the U.S. armed forces?
  • At any time since you turned age 13, were both of your parents deceased, were you in foster care, or were you a ward or dependent of the court?
  • Are you an emancipated minor or are you in legal guardianship as determined by a court?
  • Are you an unaccompanied youth who is homeless or self-supporting and at risk of being homeless?

9. What is the Student Aid Report?

When you finish filing the FAFSA, you will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR). In this report, you will find a summary of all the information that you provided. Make sure all your information is correct in the SAR, and notify the Department of Education if anything is incorrect.  If it’s acceptable, SAR reports can be kept as personal records.

10. Is the FAFSA required every year?

To remain eligible for federal student aid, you must submit the FAFSA every year. Every year after, you have the option of completing a renewal FAFSA or  If you fill out the FAFSA the first time, you can submit a renewal FAFSA the following year. Your information from the previous year will be filled in by the website automatically. Just make sure everything is still correct. If you must make significant changes, you can also start from the beginning.

11. How are financial aids different?

Financial aid packages include grants, scholarships, loans, and work-study opportunities. When it comes to grants and scholarships, you usually do not have to pay them back. With student loans, you will have to pay interest.

Students with a certain amount of financial need can apply for the federal work-study program. Students can earn money by working part-time on campus. Please indicate on your FAFSA if you would like to be considered for work-study.

12. What will the amount of financial aid be?

Federal student loans are included in financial aid – up to $31,000 for dependent undergraduate students and up to $138,500 for graduate students. You may incur significant debt even if your financial aid award meets your full financial need.

Financial aid amounts are largely determined by the college or graduate school you attend. Some colleges even cover all accepted students’ financial needs.

Your financial need may not be met by other colleges. If you still want to attend that school, you will have to find other sources of funding, such as private student loans.

13. What is the timeline for receiving my financial aid package?

The college financial aid office determines your financial aid award. The majority of regular decision colleges send out admissions decisions in March or April of your senior year in high school. A financial aid package usually follows shortly thereafter.

Generally, rolling-decision schools send out decisions and financial aid packages later in the spring or summer. You should be able to view and compare financial aid packages before you choose a college.

14. Are You (or Your Parents) Married? If So, What Should You Do?

  • As of today (the day the FAFSA is completed), the FAFSA asks for married status. The spouse’s 2019 income will need to be added to the FAFSA form if the student or parent is married now but not in 2019 (and therefore did not file taxes as a married person).
  • The student or parent must subtract the spouse’s income if they filed 2018 taxes as married but are not married when they fill out the FAFSA form.
  • When filing 2018 taxes, if the student or parent was married and then divorced, then got remarried to someone else, it’s a bit more complicated: Subtract the ex’s income, then add the new spouse’s income.

15. Is it possible to edit the FAFSA once it has been submitted?

The FAFSA can be edited after it has been submitted. In fact, you’re required to do so if your dependency status, the number of family members in your household, or the number of college students in your household changes.

You can also fix errors you made when filling out the form. Click “Make FAFSA Corrections” after logging in to your account. Enter your FSA ID, make any necessary changes, and then click ‘Submit.’ 

The exception is if your social security number is incorrect. Contact your college’s financial aid office if you entered an incorrect Social Security number. It may be necessary for you to submit another FAFSA.

For more information about filling out the FAFSA read these posts:

Should I Complete the FAFSA? Why? Why Not?

Filling Out the FAFSA Form.

And remember, if you need any advice or assistance on your FAFSA form, we are here to help. HelloCollege offers expert consulting in financial aid and college enrollment to students just like you. Reach out today to learn how we can help make your enrollment and application process easier!

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HelloCollege CEO Andrea Emmons has spent the last 15 years guiding students and families across the country on their path to college. Andrea knows the profound impact proactive college planning has on the lives of students and is passionate about mentoring families through the process.
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Kevin Krebs

Inspired by his parents, Kevin’s journey from a first-gen, diverse, low-income background to Northwestern University shaped him. After experiencing challenges, including student loan debt, he founded HelloCollege and has spent the last 25 years helping students successfully navigate college admissions.

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