Q: Help! I need to fill out my FAFSA forms and I don’t know where to start! What do I need to know about filling out my FAFSA forms?
A: Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) season is in full swing! Whether you’re a college student, a high school senior or you’re seeking financial aid for your college-age child, it’s time to get those forms filled out. The rules and deadlines can be confusing, but we’re here to help. Below, we’ve answered many of the questions you may have on applying for FAFSA.
When is my application due?
There are three FAFSA deadlines you need to note: federal, college, and state. The federal FAFSA submission has one set date, while each college and state sets its deadlines that may or may not coincide with the federal deadline.
To be considered for federal student aid for the 2021–22 award year, the FAFSA form must be completed between Oct. 1, 2020, and 11:59 p.m. Central time (CT) on June 30, 2022. Any FAFSA corrections or updates must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. CT on Sept. 10, 2022.
The application for the 2022-23 award year will become available on Oct. 1, 2021, and must be completed by 11:59 p.m. Central time (CT) on June 30, 2023. Any corrections or updates must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. CT on Sept. 10, 2023.
As mentioned, many states and colleges have their own deadlines for submitting applications for state and institutional financial aid. You can find your state’s deadline here. Check with your college choice(s) about their deadlines.
The deadlines can get confusing, and while the federal government provides ample time to submit forms, many states and colleges provide aid based on a first-come, first-served basis. For this reason, it’s best to get your application in as soon as you can to increase your chances of receiving aid.
Who is eligible for FAFSA?
To qualify for FAFSA, you must meet the following criteria:
- Demonstrate financial need.
- Be a U.S. citizen or an eligible noncitizen.
- Have a valid Social Security number (unless you are from the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, or the Republic of Palau).
- Men must be registered with Selective Service.
- Be enrolled or accepted for enrollment as a regular student in an eligible degree or certificate program.
- Maintain satisfactory academic progress in college or career school.
- Have a high school diploma or a recognized equivalent.
There are more eligibility requirements for FAFSA. You can view the full list of criteria here.
How do I apply for FAFSA?
You can now apply for FAFSA using the free myStudentAid app, available on Apple and Google Play. If you use the app with an Apple device, be sure to disable the “smart punctuation” feature before filling out the form to avoid errors. You can also apply for FAFSA online at FAFSA.ed.gov.
You can still send in your application via snail mail, but this is not recommended for several reasons: Online applications are simpler to complete and generally have fewer errors because they are designed to detect common mistakes and/or typos. Your application is also likely to be processed sooner when it’s submitted online. Finally, when applying for FAFSA online, you will be given the option to have your IRS data automatically retrieved and then populate the relevant fields, significantly lowering your chances of errors in your tax reporting.
What are some common mistakes people make on the FAFSA form?
A mistake on your form can delay your application and limit your eligibility for aid. To avoid errors, be sure to read every question carefully and review your application before submitting it.
Here are some of the most common errors on FAFSA forms:
- Leaving blank fields. If a question does not apply to you, enter a “0” or write “Not applicable.”
- Using commas or decimal points in numeric fields. Instead, round to the nearest dollar.
- Listing an incorrect Social Security number or driver’s license number. Triple-check these numbers to ensure accuracy.
- Using the wrong name. Be sure to use your full legal name as it appears on your Social Security card.
- Entering the wrong address. Use your permanent address to avoid confusion.
- Forgetting to list your college. Be sure to obtain the Federal School Code for the college you plan on attending and list it along with any other schools where you’ve applied for admission.
- Forgetting to sign and date. Don’t forget this crucial step!
Can I apply for FAFSA as an independent?
If your parents are not paying any part of your college tuition, you may be able to apply for FAFSA as an independent. If you can apply as an independent, your parent’s income will not be considered when your eligibility is determined.
You may be able to apply for FAFSA as an independent if you meet any of the following criteria:
- You will be 24 years of age or older by Dec. 31 of the award year.
- You are an orphan (both parents deceased), ward of the court, in foster care or you were a ward of the court at age 13 or older.
- You are a veteran of the Armed Forces of the United States or serving on active duty.
- You are working toward a master’s or doctorate degree.
- You are legally married.
- You have legal dependents (excluding a spouse).
- You are an emancipated minor or in legal guardianship.
- You are homeless.
If you do not meet any of these requirements, consider contacting a financial aid administrator to discuss your options.
The sooner you apply for FAFSA, the greater your chances of obtaining financial aid for college. Don’t delay; complete your FAFSA early!
Your Turn: Have you applied for FAFSA? Share your tips with us in the comments.