Help With FAFSA
Have questions? Here is information about how to determine who is the parent to ut on the FAFSA, what to do for undocumented students and parents, FAFSA FAQ and myths.
General FAFSA FAQ
Who can get financial aid?
To get federal financial aid from the FAFSA you must:
- Be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen
- Enroll at least half-time at a qualifying school in a degree or certificate program
- Graduate and have a High School Diploma or GED
- Males must register with Selective Service
What can financial aid be used for?
Financial aid is money to supplement what you and your family can afford to pay for your education. It may be used for tuition, fees, books, supplies, room, meal plans, and other educational expenses.
How is financial aid determined?
How much aid you qualify for is calculated by the difference of your expected family contribution and the total cost of the school you plan to attend, including tuition, fees, housing, books, supplies, etc.
How long will it take to complete my FAFSA?
The application takes an average of 30 minutes or less. It will be faster if you get your FSA ID and all documents and information prepared in advance.
How is financial aid calculated?
Student financial aid is awarded based on the following equation:
- Total Cost of Attendance – This is developed by each individual school, which includes tuition, fees, room and board, books, supplies, transportation, personal expenses, etc.
- Expected Family Contribution- This is determined by the FAFSA
- Other Financial Assistance
- Student Financial Need
What are the FAFSA deadlines?
The FAFSA opening date is determined by the federal government. Financial aid and work-study programs are given on a first-come, first-served basis.
However, many states and colleges have earlier deadlines for applying for state and institutional financial aid. You can find your state’s deadline at https://studentaid.gov/apply-for-aid/fafsa/fafsa-deadlines#federal. Check with your college about its deadlines.
Because of the variation in state and college deadlines, it is highly recommended that you fill out the FAFSA as soon as you can to ensure that you do not miss out on available aid.
FAFSA Form Completion FAQ
What if my parent doesn’t have a Social Security number?
If a student’s parent cannot create an FSA ID because they do not have a social security number, they can enter 000-00-0000 in their FAFSA form. Then, print, sign, and mail in the parent signature page. You can still fill out the FAFSA form without an SSN.
What if my last name doesn’t fit in the allowed space?
If your last name doesn’t fit in the allowed space, type in as much as you can and it will be accepted.
Do I need to register for selective service?
You are not required to register for the Selective Service on the FAFSA to be eligible for federal financial aid for the 22-23 award year. However, if you are male under 18 that has not registered for Selective Service, you may select yes and once you turn 18 you will be registered and a Selective Service card will be mailed to you. Males (gender assigned at birth) can register for Selective Service while completing the FAFSA.
Can I submit one FAFSA for all my children going to college?
If your parent has more than one child who will be in college next year, on the confirmation page of your FAFSA application, you can transfer their information to the next FAFSA application. This option is only available on the confirmation page and will not allow you to come back later to transfer.
Can I use the same phone number and email address for my FSA ID?
A mobile phone number cannot be used with more than one FSA ID. Emails used for the FSA ID need to be different. If you only have one email, your parent can proceed without creating an FSA ID.
What do I do if I want to submit to more than 10 colleges?
If you are applying to more than 10 schools, submit your FAFSA, then return the form after it has been processed. You can remove a school and replace it with another one. The school that you had removed will still receive your FAFSA form.
Can I submit the FAFSA without my parent's information?
The FAFSA can be submitted without parental information. However, it will not be considered complete. FSA will not be able to calculate the EFC. Contact your financial aid office for more details.
Use the HELP Feature
Use the “?” to the right of every question for guidance.
On the FAFSA form you will send an invite to your contributor to allow them access to log in and fill out their portion of the form.
As you complete the FAFSA form, there is a Q&A section with information that will help you through the process. The FAFSA form takes about an hour or less to complete.
Finding the right school is important. Spend time looking into what each school has to offer you. Consider the school size, location, and amount of financial aid. Visit: collegescorecard.ed.gov
If your parents are separated or divorced, the custodial parent is responsible for filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). For federal student aid purposes, the custodial parent is the parent you lived the most during the past 12 months. (The twelve-month period is the twelve months ending on the FAFSA application date, not the previous calendar year). Note that this is not necessarily the same as the parent with legal custody. If you did not live with one parent more than the other, the parent who provided you with the most financial support during the past twelve months should fill out the FAFSA. This parent probably claimed you as a dependent on their tax return. If you have not received any support from either parent during the past 12 months, use the most recent calendar year for which you received some support from a parent.
Biological parents who never got married are treated the same as divorced parents. Note, however, that any child support and/or alimony received from the non-custodial parent must be included on the FAFSA.
- Financial aid applications can be somewhat confusing because there are several different criteria for different kinds of parenthood: The parent with whom the child lived the most during the past 12 months (the 12 months ending on the FAFSA application date).
- The parent who provided more financial support to the child during the past 12 months.
- The parent who provided the most financial support to the child during the most recent calendar year for which either parent provided more support.
- The parent who provided more than half the child’s support (and will continue to do so).
- The parent who has legal custody.
- The parent who claimed the child as a dependent on their tax return.
As noted above, 1, 2, and 3 are used for determining the custodial parent, with the first being primary.
Obligations of Stepparents
My parents are divorced, and the parent I’m living with has remarried. Does my stepparent have to report their income and assets on the FAFSA?
Yes, provided that the parent you’re living with is filling out the FAFSA (your custodial parent). If your stepparent is married to them when you fill out the FAFSA, they must report their income and assets even if they weren’t married to them in the previous year.
If your parent has remarried, the income of that parent’s spouse shall be included in determining the parent’s adjusted available income only if —
- The student’s parent and the stepparent are married as of the date of application for the award year concerned, and
- The student is not an independent student
My custodial parent remarried and signed a prenuptial agreement that clears the stepparent from financial responsibility for my education. Why does my stepparent have to provide financial information on the FAFSA?
The federal need analysis process ignores prenuptial agreements, regardless of any prenuptial agreements to the contrary. If a stepparent marries the parent, they are considered responsible for supporting the parent and children even if they are unwilling to do so.
Dependent vs. Independent Student Info
Am I Dependent or Independent?
Dependent students are required to report parent information on the FAFSA. Parent means your legal (biological or adoptive) parent and/or step-parent. A student determined to be homeless or self-supporting is considered independent, so no parent info is needed.
You must meet certain criteria to be declared an independent student for the FAFSA:
• Be 24 years of age or older by December 31 of the award year
• Be an orphan (both parents deceased), a ward of the court, in foster care, or was a ward of the court when 13 years or older
• Be a veteran of the Armed Forces of the United States or serving on active duty for other than training purposes
• Be a graduate or professional student
• Be a married individual
• Have legal dependents other than a spouse
• Be an emancipated minor or in legal guardianship
• Be a homeless youth
• Be a student for whom a financial aid administrator makes a documented determination of independence because of other unusual circumstances.
Tips for Filing as an Independent Student
Filing as an independent student doesn’t mean that you can leave the parent section of the FAFSA blank. Check with your school first before submitting it. For example, graduate health profession students may be required to provide parental data even if they are independent. Don’t forget to complete the section that asks you for the number of people in your household. Be sure to include yourself.
Changing Your Status
Dependent students may change their status. Remember that most students will not qualify for a change in status. Circumstances tend to be extreme (such as abandonment or physical abuse) to warrant the change. Simply living in your apartment or house is not enough to justify your reasoning.
You can start by filing a Dependency Review Form, which can be requested from a financial aid administrator at your school. You also must provide documentation explaining your situation. A committee or financial aid office then reviews your case at your college.
Undocumented Students & Parents
Students without a Social Security number
Students without an SSN can’t complete the FAFSA but might be eligible for state and school financial aid. Contact your school’s financial aid office for details.
Parents without a Social Security number
Does my parents’ citizenship status affect my eligibility for federal student aid?
No. Your parents’ citizenship status doesn’t affect your eligibility for federal student aid. The FAFSA form doesn’t even ask about your parents’ status.
Does my parent need a Social Security number?
Parents do not need an SSN to complete the FAFSA. If your parents are undocumented, they can complete the FAFSA by entering 000-00-0000 in the SSN field and printing, signing, and mailing the form.
How should my parent submit their tax information?
If you filed your income tax return with the IRS, you may be able to access your tax information through the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT), and it will transfer to your FAFSA application. If you didn’t file an income tax return with the IRS, enter the requested financial information manually on the FAFSA website.
Students with a Social Security number
If you have a Social Security number, you are eligible to receive federal state aid. You can complete the FAFSA application and apply to your desired college.
How do I answer the question that reads, “Are you a U.S. citizen?”
DACA students must answer that question by selecting “No, I am not a citizen or eligible noncitizen.”
How do I answer the question, “What is your state of legal residence?”
This includes parents’ state of legal residence as well. The state of legal residence is your permanent home. Being a DACA student doesn’t affect how you should answer this question. Each state determines legal residency differently. Contact your high school counselor or college or career school’s financial aid office for assistance with your state of legal residence if needed.
How should my parent and I submit our tax information?
If you filed your income tax return with the IRS, you may be able to access your tax information through the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT), which will transfer to your FAFSA application. If you didn’t file an income tax return with the IRS, manually enter the requested financial information on the FAFSA website.
Is Federal student aid just 'free money' like grants?
Federal student aid includes different kinds of financial help: low-interest loans that must be repaid, grants, and work-study funds (a part-time job on or near campus).
If my parents make too much money will I qualify for financial aid?
There is no income cut-off to qualify for federal student aid. Many factors, such as the size of your family, the cost of college you plan to attend, and your year in school, are considered. The only way to know your qualifications is to submit the FAFSA.
Do you need a good credit score to get a federal student loan?
You don’t need to get a credit check for most federal student loans (except for Direct PLUS Loans). Also, you usually won’t need a cosigner to get a federal student loan.
Do you have to have good grades to get financial aid?
While a high GPA will help a student get into a school and may help with academic scholarships, most federal student aid programs do not consider a student’s grades.
Are age or ethnicity taken into consideration for federal aid?
No, your age or ethnicity are not taken into consideration for federal financial aid.
If my parent's aren't USA citizens is there any way I can get financial aid?
Yes, your parents’ citizenship status is NOT a factor. If your parents don’t have Social Security numbers, they must enter 000-00-0000 and mail in the signature page.
Does the FAFSA form take a long time to finish?
If you get all of your documents and information ready beforehand, the FAFSA won’t take more than 30 minutes. See FAFSA Info Checklists
Do I need to apply to schools before I complete the FAFSA?
You can submit your FAFSA form before submitting any school applications. You’ll need to list at least one school on your FAFSA form, but try to add every school you’re considering. Some schools have early deadlines to apply for limited funds. You can add or delete schools on your FAFSA after you submit it.
Do I have to update my taxes on the FAFSA after I file in the spring?
The FAFSA uses prior years’ tax information. Learn more about tax deadlines and details on Prep for FAFSA.
Do I have to fill out a new FAFSA every year I'm in school?
Yes! It’s super important to fill out a FAFSA form every year you are in school. Why? Because things can change. For instance, your school or state might create a new grant or scholarship, or the factors used to calculate your aid could change from one year to the next. Either way, if you don’t submit a new FAFSA form, you may not know.