You complete an application to be considered for federal
student aid. Applying is free, and you can even
apply before you’ve been accepted to a school.
But I Hate Filling Out a Bunch of Forms.
All you need for federal student aid is one form: the
Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). In fact,
schools and states often use FAFSA information in
awarding nonfederal aid.
You can apply electronically, using
FAFSA on the Web, from your home computer or
from a computer at a central location like your high
school, your local public library, or your local
educational opportunity center. FAFSA on the
can be found at www.fafsa.ed.gov,
or you can access it at www.studentaid.ed.gov. At this
site, click on the FAFSA logo in the left column.
If you don’t have Internet access, you can get a
paper FAFSA—in English or Spanish—from your local
library or high school, the college or career school
you plan to attend, or from our Federal Student Aid
Federal Student Aid Information Center
PO Box 84
Washington, DC 20044
Your college or career school can give you any other
forms you might need for school or state aid.
If you use a paper FAFSA, just mail it in the preaddressed
envelope that’s in your FAFSA packet. Or,
before mailing it, you could check to see if your school,
or a school that interests you, offers the option of submitting
your FAFSA information for you electronically.
When Can I Apply?
For 2004-2005, you can apply beginning January 1,
2004. Don’t transmit your electronic FAFSA or sign,
date, or mail your paper FAFSA before that date. If
you do any of these things, your application will be
rejected. For information on deadlines you must meet, click here.
Your eligibility is determined one award year at a time,
so you must reapply each year you’re in school. The
results of your 2004-2005 application are good only
for the 2004-2005 award year (July 1, 2004 to June 30,
2005, and any summer terms your school considers part
of that award year).
After you’ve applied for the first time, you might be able
to apply more easily and quickly in subsequent award
years by completing a Renewal FAFSA. Generally, you
would fill out just the information that has changed
from the previous award year. The Renewal FAFSA is
also available at FAFSA on the Web.
What Should I Have or Know Before I Fill
Out an Application?
You need to have a Social Security Number (SSN). You’ll need this number to apply for federal student aid.
We use your SSN to verify your information and locate
your records. If you don’t have an SSN yet, you should
apply for one at your local Social Security office. You can
find out more about applying at www.ssa.gov.
You should have a PIN. If you use FAFSA on the Web,
having a PIN (your personal identifying number)
allows you (and your parents, if they have a PIN and
you’re a dependent student—see below) to “sign” your FAFSA electronically at the
time you submit it. That way, the student aid process
can be completed totally online. Your electronic signature
holds the same legal status as a written signature,
so don’t give out your PIN to anyone. You can request a
PIN at www.pin.ed.gov.
You’ll need to supply your name (as it appears on your
Social Security card), your Social Security Number, date
of birth, and mailing address. After that information has
been verified with the Social Security Administration,
a PIN will be generated. You’ll receive your PIN either
through regular mail or e-mail, if you provide your
A PIN has other uses besides allowing you to complete a
FAFSA online. So, even if you complete a paper FAFSA,
you should request a PIN because you can use it to
You’ll need to know whose information to report
on the FAFSA. Because our aid is awarded based on
financial need, you’ll have to know whether to
report your and your parents’ financial information
or just yours. Your dependency status will determine
whose information you report. Most students who are
entering college or a career school straight from high
school are considered “dependent students.”
- access your processed FAFSA data, contained in your
Student Aid Report (SAR);
- make corrections to your application information;
- electronically sign a master promissory note (for a
federal student loan);
- complete your Renewal FAFSA; and
- access all your applicant data records online. You
can, among other things, check your student loan
For the 2004-2005 academic year, you’re a dependent
student unless one of the following is true:
- You were born before January
- You’re married as of the day
you apply (or separated but not divorced).
- You are or will be enrolled
in a master’s or doctorate program (beyond a
bachelor’s degree) at the beginning of the 2004-2005
- You have children who receive
more than half their support from you.
- You have dependents (other
than your children or spouse) who live with you and
who receive more than half their support from you and
will continue to receive more than half their support
from you through June 30, 2005.
- Both your parents are
deceased, or you are or were (until age 18) a
ward/dependent of the court).
- You’re a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces. (A “veteran”
includes students who attended a U.S. service
academy and who were released under a condition
other than dishonorable. For more detail on who is
considered a veteran, see the explanatory notes on
|If you do not fall into one of the categories mentioned above, you’re
dependent, and you’ll report both your and your parents’ financial
information on the FAFSA. This information will be considered when
your federal student aid eligibility is determined.
If you do meet at least one of the listed criteria, you’re independent
and report only your financial information (and your spouse’s if
In special or unusual circumstances, a college’s or
career school’s financial aid administrator might determine
that an otherwise dependent student should
be considered independent.
If you’re dependent and your parents are divorced or
separated, you’ll need to complete the FAFSA using
information about the parent you lived with for the
greater amount of time during the 12 months preceding
the date of application. If you didn’t live with either parent,
or if you lived with each parent an equal number
of days, use information about the parent who provided
the greater amount of financial support during the 12
months preceding the date of application.
If the parent you receive financial support from was a
single parent who is now married, or if the parent you
receive support from is divorced or widowed and has
remarried, your stepparent’s financial information is
required on the FAFSA. This does not mean your stepparent
is obligated to give financial assistance to you,
but his or her income and assets represent significant
information about the family’s resources. Including
this information on the FAFSA helps us form an accurate
picture of your family’s total financial strength.
What Does the Application Ask For?
Because the FAFSA asks for your family’s financial
information, you’ll need your parents’ 2003 U.S.
income tax return if you’re a dependent student. If
you filed a return, you’ll need yours, too. Referring
to the tax forms makes it easier to answer the FAFSA
questions, which require information from specific
lines on the U.S. income tax forms. If you haven’t
completed your tax form in time to use it when filling
out the FAFSA, you can estimate your answers,
but you’ll have to correct them later. Bank statements,
W-2 forms, records of untaxed income (Social Security
or welfare, for example), and business or farm records
also will be helpful.
Save all the forms you refer to when completing the FAFSA
because you might need them later if your school asks you to show
that the information on your FAFSA is correct. If the information is
incorrect, you won’t get aid until you make corrections. It’s a good
idea to keep a photocopy of your completed FAFSA or a printout
of your application from FAFSA on the Web.
What if I Need Help Filling Out My
If you apply using FAFSA on the Web, help is built
into the program while you’re completing the form.
You can also “chat” live online with someone if you
have questions. For additional help, you can go to
You can also contact the Federal Student Aid
Information Center with questions on either the paper
or electronic FAFSA. You can get the help you need for
free from one of these sources; you don’t have to pay
How Can I Find Out the Status of My
Application After I Submit It?
If you applied through FAFSA on the Web, you’ll get
a confirmation notice after you click on “Submit My
If you file a paper FAFSA, you can mail the postcard
that comes with the FAFSA packet. We’ll stamp the postcard
with the date we received your FAFSA and mail the
postcard back to you. We’ll process your FAFSA within
four weeks of the date you mail it.
You can also check on your application by contacting
the Federal Student Aid Information Center.
What Happens After My Application is
After your application information is complete and transmitted or mailed to us, you’ll receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) (if you applied with a paper FAFSA) or a SAR Acknowledgement (if you applied using FAFSA on the Web). But, if you provided your e-mail address on your paper or electronic application, you’ll instead get back an e-mail that contains a secure link so you can access your SAR on the Web. You’ll get this link in one to five days. If you don’t have, or provide, an e-mail address, you’ll get a SAR within four weeks or a SAR Acknowledgement within two weeks.
What Do I Do with My SAR?
Review it carefully to make sure the data it contains is
correct and complete. If it is, and your SAR contains
your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), your school will use your SAR as the
basis to pay you federal—and possibly nonfederal—
student aid funds. (Schools you list on your FAFSA
will receive your SAR information electronically.)
If you need to make corrections, you can use your PIN to make them online at the FAFSA on
the Web site, even if you didn’t apply electronically.
If you received a paper SAR, you can put your corrected
answers on the SAR, sign it, and mail it back,
although this is a slower process. If you misplace your
SAR, you can call the Federal Student Aid Information
Center for a duplicate.
You can check the information on a SAR Acknowledgement, but you can’t use it to make corrections.
You’ll make corrections through FAFSA on
the Web, using your PIN. Your school might be able to
process corrections electronically for you; check with
Make sure you keep a photocopy of your SAR
containing the corrections.