What Is the FAFSA Online Application Form?

The U.S. Department of Education's student financial aid programs provide more than $100 billion annually in financial aid for postsecondary education. Students must apply for this aid using the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA online application form is used by federal, state and school financial officers to determine a student's ability to pay for college and the amount of financial aid to be provided from government and school sources.

FAFSA Online Application Form

The online FAFSA, available on www.fafsa.ed.gov, is a free electronic application that enables college students to apply for federal financial aid. Most states and some other organizations use the FAFSA to determine student financial aid needs. Federal financial aid includes grants, work-study programs and low-interest loans. The U.S. Department of Education (USDE) also offers a paper application available in PDF form that can be completed and mailed in, or you can call to request a paper application by mail, but the USDE reports that 98% of applications today are submitted electronically. The benefits of using the online application include:

  • Live online help
  • Automatic calculations
  • Quick retrieval and editing
  • Faster application processing

Important Facts About FAFSA Applications

Federal FAFSA Application Deadline June 30
State Financial Aid Application Deadline Varies; some states require applications as early as February, some states have no deadlines
Processing Period 3-5 days for electronic applications
7-10 days for paper applications
Filing Requirements FSA ID, previous year tax info, annual application

Source: FAFSA.com

Financial Aid Eligibility

Before you begin the detailed FAFSA application, make sure it's worth your time. Spend about half an hour using the FAFSA4caster eligibility tool available on the FAFSA website. Taking 30 minutes to input a few details could save you hours later. If you find that you do qualify for aid, some information you entered in this tool can automatically fill the FAFSA online application form.

Information Required for the FAFSA

If you qualify for aid, gather your financial information. If your parents claim you as a dependent on their taxes or if you are married, you will need financial information from your parents or spouse in addition to your own. Information required includes:

  • Social security number
  • Driver's license
  • W-2 forms (earnings records)
  • Tax returns
  • Bank statements
  • Investment statements
  • Mortgage information

File Electronically

Request a personal identification number (PIN) from the FAFSA website, and submit your forms online by the deadline. Deadlines may be different for federal, state and school aid programs. If you're applying to more than one college or university, check deadlines for each school. Once you submit your FAFSA, check the FAFSA website to ensure that your application was submitted correctly. You may edit your saved application for 45 days, or until the corrections deadline, if necessary.

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