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FAFSA® FAQ

What will you need to fill out the FAFSA®? When can you expect to hear back about how much financial aid you’ll receive? We’ve got the answers to your most frequently asked FAFSA® questions below. 

For Students

What is the FAFSA®?

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) is the official form you’ll use to apply for financial assistance for college from the federal government. You’ll need to fill out a new FAFSA® form each academic year.

Should I fill out the FAFSA® even if I don’t think I’ll qualify for financial aid?

Yes, absolutely! The FAFSA® takes more than income and assets into account when determining your financial need. Plus, many scholarships request FAFSA® information as part of their application process, so you’re already ahead of the game if you have yours filled out.

Who can receive financial aid through FAFSA®?

To be eligible to receive federal student aid, you must:

  • Be a citizen or eligible noncitizen of the United States
  • Have a valid Social Security Number
  • Have a high school diploma or a General Education Development (GED) certificate, or have completed homeschooling
  • Be enrolled in an eligible program as a regular student seeking a degree or certificate
  • Maintain satisfactory academic progress
  • Not owe a refund on a federal student grant or be in default on a federal student loan
  • Register (or already be registered) with the Selective Service System, if you are a male and not currently on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces
  • Not have a conviction for the possession or sale of illegal drugs for an offense that occurred while you were receiving federal student aid (such as grants, work-study, or loans)
What information do I need to fill out the FAFSA®?

Before you sit down to fill out your FAFSA®, you’ll need: 

  • Your Social Security Number (or Alien Registration Number, if you’re not a U.S. citizen)
  • Your federal income tax returns, W-2s, and other records of money earned
  • An FSA ID to e-sign your form 
  • Bank statements and records of investments (if applicable)
  • Records of untaxed income (if applicable)
Will I need info from my parents to fill out the FAFSA®?

It depends on how you answer the questions below. If you can answer “no” to any of the questions, you’re considered a dependent student and will need to get information from your parents to complete your FAFSA®. If you can answer “yes” to any of the questions, you will not need to get information from your parents.

  • Were you born before January 1, 1997?
  • As of today, are you married?
  • At the beginning of the 2021–22 school year, will you be working on a master’s or doctorate program (such as an M.A., MBA, M.D., J.D., Ph.D., Ed.D., or graduate certificate, etc.)?
  • 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?
  • Do you now have or will you have children who will receive more than half of their support from you during the award year?
  • Do you have dependents (other than your children or spouse) who live with you and who receive more than half of their support from you now and through June 30, 2022?
  • At any time since you turned age 13, were both your parents deceased, were you in foster care or were you a dependent or ward of the court?
  • As determined by a court in your state of legal residence, are you or were you an emancipated minor?
  • Does someone other than your parent or stepparent have legal guardianship of you, as determined by a court in your state of legal residence?
  • At any time on or after July 1, 2019, did your high school or school district homeless liaison determine that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless or were self-supporting and at risk of being homeless?
  • At any time on or after July 1, 2019, did the director of an emergency shelter or transitional housing program funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development determine that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless or were self-supporting and at risk of being homeless?
  • At any time on or after July 1, 2019, did the director of a runaway or homeless youth basic center or transitional living program determine that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless or were self-supporting and at risk of being homeless?

The Federal Student Aid website has a great section here that explains more about the difference between dependent and independent students. 

What types of financial aid can I receive?

Financial aid packages are usually a mix of grants, scholarships, student loans and (when eligible) work-study options. While grants, scholarships and work-study options don’t require you to pay the funds back, student loans will, and with interest. 

When will I know how much financial aid I’ll receive?

Great question! It really depends on the college(s) you listed on your FAFSA® form. Most colleges send out financial aid award letters around the same time as admission offer letters. In your letter, you’ll see the cost to attend the college for one academic year, as well as details about the grants, scholarships, work study funds, or loans you’re eligible to receive.

For Parents

Does my student need to fill out a FAFSA®?

Yes! The FAFSA® is how your student will potentially qualify for federal loans, federal grants, and federal work-study funds to help pay for college. Some schools won’t even award students merit-based aid unless they’ve submitted a FAFSA®, so it’s a good idea to complete one every academic year.

Why does the FAFSA® need my information?

Your information helps determine your family’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC), often used by colleges, state governments and private organizations to evaluate your student’s potential for need- or merit-based student aid.

What information will my student need from me?

Beyond your tax return, you’ll need to enter information about untaxed income (which includes child support, interest income, and other items.) The FAFSA® will also ask about the value of specific assets, such as your savings and checking accounts, real estate (except your primary residence), and investments.

Which tax year should I use to provide information?

The rule is that you need the prior-prior year to the year of attendance. For example, since the year of attendance will be 2021, you’ll need your 2019 tax year information. If you’ve filed a U.S. tax return, you can use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to get your tax information transferred directly into the FAFSA®! 

Unlock thousands of opportunities to pay for college.

Fill out the FAFSA® today!