Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
You must submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) if you want to apply for federal and state financial aid. Many colleges and universities, especially public institutions, also require the FAFSA. You must submit the FAFSA every year that you want aid.
Obtaining a FAFSA
The FAFSA is available in several formats, including online, PDF and paper versions.
FAFSA on the Web offers several benefits, including:
PDF format FAFSAs are available in black and white and color versions in both English and Spanish. These versions of the FAFSA may be printed using the free Adobe PDF Reader software. The PDF version is normally available starting November 15 of each year. Students may also obtain up to three paper copies by calling 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3242) or 1-391-337-5665. (Hearing impaired individuals should call the TTY number 1-800-730-8913.) Paper FAFSAs can be ordered starting November 1 of each year. Note that the FAFSA may not be submitted before January 1, even if the paper and PDF versions are available sooner.
See also the Ask Kantro column, How do I File the FAFSA in January When Tax Returns can't be Filed that Early?
FinAid's Financial Aid Estimation Form may be used to calculate your EFC and an estimate of your eligibility for financial aid. This may help you understand a bit about how the federal need analysis system works. There is also a QuickEFC calculator that uses much fewer questions to yield a ballpark estimate of your EFC. Like FinAid's EFC calculator, the US Department of Education's FAFSA4CASTER tool also provides an early estimate of financial aid eligibility.
Financial aid applications, such as the FAFSA, should be submitted as soon as possible after January 1, but no sooner. You cannot submit the form before January 1 because the need analysis process uses your financial information from the prior tax year when calculating eligibility for the upcoming award year.
To meet the deadlines for most states you should submit the form no later than March 1, with February 15 being ideal. Do not wait until you've filed your income tax returns with the IRS. You should either estimate your income - you'll have a chance to correct errors later - or complete your tax returns early.
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