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Tips: Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

Updated: 11/17/2014


The fastest and most convenient way to complete your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is early and online. The FAFSA is primarily designed to assess eligibility for federal student aid, but many states and colleges also use the FAFSA to determine eligibility for nonfederal student aid funds. Turning your FAFSA in early could earn you limited nonfederal aid funds that may not be available if you delay.

If you apply online, your application will be processed faster and will likely be more accurate because the FAFSA website is designed to catch common errors. The online application also provides worksheets that will calculate amounts and enter them into the field for you. It also allows you to skip questions that are not relevant to your unique situation. You can save and continue your FAFSA online at any time and then sign your application electronically using a personal identification number (PIN), which you can get from the Federal Student Aid PIN web site.


  • Click the image to download a comprehensive guide for recognizing and fixing common FAFSA errors


Much of the financial information you need to provide is on your tax forms. It is important to file your taxes prior to completing your FAFSA; in so doing, the application process will be smoother because you'll have all the financial information you need in one place. Completing your taxes early will help you get a jump on your FAFSA because you will need the previous year’s tax information to complete your FAFSA. The IRS Data Retrieval Tool can be used to pull accurate information directly from the IRS and any relevant tax forms that have already been filed.

Filling out the pre-application worksheet will help you collect and proofread the information for your application before you submit it. There are resources available if you decide you need assistance filling out your FAFSA. Check the FAQ section on the FAFSA Web site or call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243). Financial aid administrators across the country also participate in free FAFSA events to help applicants fill out the form accurately. Look for a FAFSA event in your area to get free, professional assistance to fill out your FAFSA.


Filed under: Finances v.5

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