Quick Guide to FAFSA

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The first step to qualifying for federal financial aid is to create an account on the Department of Education website. You will need to start by creating an Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID which will be your personal user name and password to start a new FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) or to access your FAFSA application to make any changes. To create a new FSA ID, visit: If you have other questions about the FSA ID, you can visit:


What is the FAFSA?

FAFSA is the official Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The information submitted on the FAFSA will help determine your eligibility for financial aid programs such as grants, work-study and loans. Information submitted on the FAFSA is also used by colleges and universities to determine non-federal aid such as scholarships and private aid.


How do I fill out a FAFSA?

The easiest way is to go to the official FAFSA website located at and start a new application online. There are step-by-step instructions that will guide you through the application.


How long is the FAFSA?

The FAFSA is about 8 pages long and consists of approximately 105 questions. It requires detailed financial information and signature and date of application.


How long will it take to fill out the FAFSA?

It depends on the applicant and whether or not you have all of the necessary documentation to complete and submit your application. On average, if you have all of the necessary information it should take about 1 hour to complete.


What documents will I need to fill out the FAFSA?

  • Social Security Number or (SSN)
  • Alien Registration Number if you are an eligible non-U.S. Citizen
  • Your most recent tax returns, W2’s and other records of money earned
  • Bank Statements and records of investments (if applicable)
  • An FSA ID to sign electronically
  • If you are a dependent student, you will also need most of the above information for your parent(s)
  • Driver’s license number (if you have one)
  • List of the schools you are interested in attending

How do I fill out and submit a new FAFSA?

You will visit: and click on start a new FAFSA


What do I do if I need help completing the FAFSA?

If you have general questions or need assistance in filling out the FAFSA, you can contact The Official FAFSA Help Center for answers to commonly asked questions. (

If you want additional information, you can call 1-800-4FED-Aid (1-800-433-3243) or 1-334-523-2691 (international callers). You can also e-mail (

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If you need additional assistance in filling out the FAFSA, there are several FREE FAFSA Help Resources ( in your area.


FAFSA A-Z Vocabulary


Award Letter – A letter or document from college or university stating how much financial aid a student is eligible for. This letter is sent after a FAFSA application has been submitted and processed.


Cost of Attendance (COA) – The COA is the estimated costs to attend a college or university for one year. The COA includes tuition, housing, books/fees and living expenses.


CSS/Profile – An online application administered by The College Board that collects and submits information to over 400 colleges and universities nationwide to determine eligibility for non-federal student aid.


Data Release Number (DRN) – A 4-digit reference number assigned to your FAFSA application by Federal Aid. It will be located in the lower left-hand corner and upper-right hand corner of your SAR report and also will be on your confirmation page.


Dependent Student – A determination that helps Federal Aid assess an overall student’s need for financial aid. The student will be determined to be either Dependent or Independent through a number of questions on the FAFSA regarding birth date, marital status and other questions. A dependent student may be living on their own and supporting themselves and still be considered dependent. A dependent student is typically claimed on someone elses’ tax return.


Disbursements – The allocation of your financial aid money. Typically this is sent directly to the student’s school rather than directly to him or her.


Expected Family Contribution (EFC) – The EFC is a number that represents a family’s ability to contribute to a student’s tuition and college expenses. It is based on calculations established by law and may help determine if a student is eligible for state and college funding in addition to federal student aid.


FAFSA – Free Application for Federal Student Aid. It is the first step a student or parent must take in determining a student’s eligibility for student aid. It consists of about 8 pages and includes questions about student and parents financial and education information.


FSA ID – a user-created username and password to help identify the student and allows him or her to access to their FAFSA online.


IRS Data Retrieval Tool – allows applicants who have already completed a federal tax return to electronically transfer some of the information to the FAFSA application.


Master Promissory Note – a legally binding contract that a borrower must sign agreeing to repay any funds with interest and fees to the loan holder.


School Code – Each college or university has a federal school code assigned to it. When filling out your FAFSA, you will need to list the school codes for the schools you are interested in applying for and want to receive your financial aid information. These codes can be found on the FAFSA School Code Search page located at:


Student Aid Report (SAR) – is a document that gives you some basic information about your financial aid eligibility and a summary of your answers on the completed FAFSA application.