How to Fill Out Your FAFSA

Nov. 19, 2018, 6:06 p.m.   evan@scholarme.co  


For every student that wants to continue their education, completing the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is usually the first step in doing so. The FAFSA is a government form that allows you to apply for government-backed financial aid. Things like student loans and some grants can come from this application.

Before one can obtain any kind of financial aid from the federal government, there are certain eligibility requirements that each student must meet. Correctly completing the FAFSA will ensure that you and your family qualify for all the aid available to you.

In this guide, ScholarMe is covering how to fill out your FAFSA quickly, accurately, and on time with current deadlines.

Before you start

FAFSA provides a tool that lets you forecast the amount of aid you're going to get: try it here. This tool is produced by the government, but is not a definitive source for the amount of money you will receive. After all, the actual FAFSA application is about 6 times longer than the forecaster.

Let's dive in.

1. Collect and prepare the correct documents

Completing the FAFSA correctly the first time will save a lot of time, as you will have to request an option to correct yours if a mistake is made. Before even beginning your application, it’s a good idea to collect the following information beforehand. Having these documents ready and on-hand will allow you to complete the application quickly and with accurate information.

Depending on the kind of financial aid you could qualify for, and your economic situation, you may need the following:

Your social security number (and your parents’ if you are a dependent student) Your Driver License, if you have one already If you are not a U.S. citizen, you Alien Registration number Federal tax returns, including W-2 information Records of untaxed income Any investments outside of the home in which you currently live Cash, checking, and savings account balances Not everyone will need all of the following, but having as much as possible will help fill out your FAFSA as best as possible.

2. Check submission options and deadlines

The FAFSA isn’t terribly long to complete, but if you are doing so alongside a parent, you want to put aside time for you both to complete the form properly. It’s a smart idea to check the deadlines for your state and your school in regard to when the FAFSA needs to be submitted in its entirety. The FAFSA application opens October 1 every year.

Once you’ve figured out when the form is due across the board, now it’s time for you to decide how you will complete this form. There are a few submission options available to you:

  • Electronic form
  • Paper mail (you can download a PDF form through fafsa.gov)
  • Electronic submission by your career school or college

Whatever route you choose, make sure your form is submitted on time within the appropriate deadlines. We recommend the electronic route, as this is the fastest route and leaves less room for human error getting to and from destinations. Lack of access to the Internet a problem? Check out your local library or college and plan ahead of time to reserve a computer.

3. Complete the actual form

At ScholarMe, we highly recommend obtaining a FSA ID, a password and username combination that allows you to complete your FAFSA form. You can also apply and sign for other things like loans and contracts.

While you can apply for a FSA ID through your FAFSA, getting one ahead of time is always a good idea. The Federal Student Aid site has an in-depth breakdown on how to do this properly.

As far as filling out your actual form, there are built in tools and helpful tips available if you choose the electronic route. The system is made to be as straightforward as possible. Here are some of the free tools you can use while you fill out your FAFSA online:

Click on the blue and white question mark icon next to a question on the online form. A “Tool Tip” will appear, providing information about how to answer that question.

At the bottom of the Tool Tip, you can click “More Help” for additional information if needed. You also can select the “Help” button at the bottom of the Tool Tip to reach the Help page. “Contact Us” on the Help page allows you to email those behind the FAFSA with your question. There is an option to chat with live technical support staff during live business hours in either English or Spanish. Worst case, get in touch with your financial aid office, college, or a FAFSA-knowledgeable adviser to guide you through the process. If you still have questions, the Student Aid site has put together a web worksheet including common FAQs about the FAFSA. This worksheet in not designed to be mailed in along with your form, but rather as a guide to help you complete the form with ease.

4. Submit your form and take action

Generally, the processing times for the FAFSA is within a few business days at most. There may be additional information your school needs that isn’t required directly by the government, but by the college you are applying for. Make sure to double-check those deadlines and complete the steps required.

Once you receive your aid, compare options and decide which aid best fits your needs. Depending on your situation, you could receive a few different options, like a Pell Grant or a student loan. Choose wisely and formally accept your aid through the online form.

After accepting your aid, your financial aid office will handle how your aid is received and distributed. Contact your financial aid counselor or the college’s office to get more details about how and when your aid will be available to you, and how much of your money will go to you or directly to your schooling.

Still lost?

Thankfully, the Student Aid site offers a hotline to call. Dial 1–800–4-FED-AID (1–800 433–3243), or visit their website at www.fafsa.gov.

Not going to get enough money?

This tends to happen, unfortunately. FAFSA is a great start, but often won't be all you need. If you'll need a student loan, make sure you pick the best one possible. Want a hand picking one? Check out our loan comparison tool here. Still a little scary? Email me: evan@scholarme.co. We'll set up a call and we'll go through all you need to know.


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Evan Farrell
ScholarMe CTO
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