How to Complete the FAFSA
Last updated November 1, 2023
Heads up! The Federal Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for the 2024-2025 academic year will open in December 2023. If you need $$$ for college, completing the FAFSA is the most important, reliable way to get it. Here's everything you need to know to complete the FAFSA!
Create Your FSA ID Now
Before you get started, you and your contributors will need to create FSA IDs to access the application. A contributor is anyone who is required to provide information on the FAFSA. Contributors are:
Student (that’s you)
To create your FSA ID, you will need your social security number, a reliable phone number, and your email address. Remember, you will not have access to the FAFSA without an FSA ID.
Creating a FSA ID will require you and your contributors to set up at least one form of Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA), which is another layer of security to keep your information safe. You can set this up using a phone number, email, authentication app, or a one-time backup code (keep safe).
Creating FSA IDs for Contributors
If you’re a dependent student (you live with your parents and rely on them for financial support such as food and housing), one or both of your parents will need to create their own FSA IDs. Keep in mind that your parent will need their own email address. You can create a free one using Gmail or Yahoo After your and your contributor’s FSA IDs are created, you can begin filling out your FAFSA.
How do I know if I am dependent/independent for FAFSA purposes?
Most students will file the FAFSA as a dependent student. Even if you have filed your taxes or support yourself. FAFSA only considers a student independent for the following reasons:
24 years old during award year
Married (or separated not divorced)
Working on advanced degree
Serving in Armed forces or veteran
Since age 13 - not living with parent, in foster care, or ward of court
Have court-ordered legal guardian
Have children or dependents and provide more than half of their support
Unaccompanied youth who is homeless
What do l need to fill out the FAFSA?
Here’s what you need to complete your FAFSA if you’re a dependent student:
Your social security number.
Your parents’ social security numbers.
USCIS registration number for eligible non-citizens.
Federal tax information, tax documents, or tax returns including IRS W-2 information for you and your parents.
Records of your untaxed income, such as child support received for you and for your parents if you are a dependent student.
Information on cash; savings and checking account balances; investments, including stocks and bonds and real estate (but not including the home in which you live); and business and farm assets for you and your parents.
A list of colleges you intend to apply to (if you’re completing the FAFSA for the first time). You do not have to be accepted to any of these colleges at the time you complete your FAFSA. You can list up to 20 colleges on your FAFSA.
For most families and students, completing the FAFSA takes around one hour.
How do I get started?
To begin filling out your FAFSA, visit the U.S. Department of Education’s website. Click “I am a student and want to access the FAFSA form.” You will be asked for your login credentials (FSA ID) and can follow the instructions on the form.
When can I start filling out my FAFSA?
The FAFSA will open in December 2023 for the 2024-2025 academic year. We recommend completing it as early as possible, since some colleges and states award more financial aid the earlier you apply. Some states also operate on a first come, first served basis, which means they can potentially run out of financial aid. Don't wait!
Make sure to double-check the dates before you start filling out the form. You want the FAFSA labeled with the school year for which you need aid (not this current year).
What’s the deadline to complete my FAFSA?
We recommend completing your FAFSA early in your senior year. FAFSA deadlines vary by state and college. Learn what your deadline is here, and be sure to apply well before it. The federal FAFSA deadline is June 30th, annually.
My parent(s) are undocumented, but I am a citizen/resident. Can I still fill out the FAFSA and receive financial aid?
Yes! If you’re a dependent student living with parents who are undocumented, you can still fill out the FAFSA using your social security number. Your parents’ citizenship status does not affect your eligibility for federal aid. The government is releasing the process for FSA IDs for undocumented parents very soon and will be updated here as soon as it is released.
I am undocumented. Can I complete the FAFSA?
Unfortunately, the FAFSA is only available to those with residence or citizenship in the U.S. If you are not in a position to complete the FAFSA due to immigration/citizenship status, many states have a state application for you to fill out instead. Check with your school counselor to see what options there are in your state.
The FAFSA is not the end-all-be-all of paying for college. Read our guide on financial aid for undocumented students to learn more about your financial aid options for college. You can also text us (send #FAFSA to 33-55-77) and we can walk you through alternatives to the FAFSA and where to find financial aid!
Do you have to pay to complete the FAFSA?
No! You should never pay to fill out the FAFSA. Be sure you are on FAFSA.gov at all times throughout the FAFSA completion process and be wary of filling out any forms or documents that don’t look official. We recommend completing the FAFSA alongside a parent or trusted adult to ensure the process goes smoothly and safely.
What happens after I complete the FAFSA?
We made a chart to help you understand what happens after you submit your FAFSA. Save it or screenshot it to have handy later!
Where can I get FAFSA Help?
Check out our list of FAFSA help by state, which breaks down what kinds of free virtual and in-person resources are available to students completing the FAFSA in your state.
Have more questions about the FAFSA?
Text #FAFSA to 33-55-77 and we'll walk you through every step of filing your FAFSA. If you're using a mobile device, click here to have the text message set up for you!