A Guide to Filing The FAFSA® With Undocumented Parents

Students with parents who do not have a SSN (Social Security Number) are in a state of limbo with the 2024-2025 Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Impacted students are wondering how colleges will provide them with financial aid packages, and how they will access key financial aid, like the Federal Pell Grant, work study, scholarships, and federal student loans. 

What you need to know

Since the soft-launch on December 31, students with parents who do not have a SSN have been unable to file the FAFSA® online. This is due to an error message preventing their parents from being able to contribute to the application.

On February 20, 2024, the Department of Education (ED) announced a resolution that will be available by mid-March. Additionally, ED created a workaround process for the online FAFSA® in the meantime.

Filing the FAFSA® online vs. on paper

Students should carefully evaluate the pros and cons of each filing option.

Option 1: Wait for the online FAFSA® to be fixed, and then file online. 


  • This is the current advice of the Department of Education. With the announcement of a solution that will be available soon, students should likely follow this advice.
  • Many Financial Aid Offices prefer students file the FAFSA® online, as the paper form can increase the risk of human error. 
  • There are many benefits to filing the FAFSA® online. The benefits include: access to online support, skip logic that can remove unnecessary questions, and faster application processing time.


  • Waiting for the solution could lead to the student missing a priority deadline. This could result in the student missing out on financial aid at colleges they would like to attend. Students should first reach out to the financial aid office for up-to-date information on priority deadlines. 
  • Waiting for a solution is stressful and frustrating for many families. This frustration could lead students to forgo the FAFSA®, postpone their education, or forgo higher education altogether. 

Option 2: File the paper FAFSA®


  • The paper application provides students with the ability to file the FAFSA® today. For a student who is up against a priority deadline for state, institutional, or private financial aid, this could be a solution that allows them to remain eligible for those aid programs.
  • Students may be more likely to file the FAFSA® if they are able to complete the application in one sitting. Filing the paper application could also alleviate the frustration and stress of trying to access FSA Support for extended periods. 
  • ISIRs (the FAFSA® Data used by colleges) list the filing date for the FAFSA®. This is what they use to determine if a student met any deadlines that the college has. Additionally, as institutional financial aid often runs out, colleges will use the FAFSA® filing date for determining who is “first” in “first come, first served” situations. 
  • Some states have state FAFSA® graduation requirements for high school seniors. Filing the paper FAFSA® may be their only option to ensure they meet the deadline for the state graduation requirement. 


  • The paper FAFSA® application processing times are longer than the online form. Students who submit the paper application for the 2024-2025 FAFSA® may find that this doesn’t improve the timeline in which they receive their financial aid offer letters. 
  • The online FAFSA® should be fixed by mid-March. With many colleges pushing back their priority deadlines, it may be unnecessary to complete the paper application.
  • Families that submit the paper application may not realize that they must still consent to the FUTURE Act Direct Data Exchange to be considered eligible for federal financial aid.  

What is the workaround?

ED has shared a nine-step workaround guide.

The workaround is intended for students faced with state or institutional deadlines requiring they submit the FAFSA® before mid-March. The advice of the Department of Education is for students to wait until the permanent solution is available, if possible.

How it works

  1. Impacted students can submit the online FAFSA® application without the contributor’s signature.
  2. The student will receive a confirmation email that they submitted they FAFSA®.
  3. The student can provide the email confirmation to colleges as documentation of FAFSA® submission. They can also use it for any state or private financial aid deadlines.
  4. The student will need to return to the FAFSA® once it is processed, the student will need to correct their FAFSA® to include the parent contributor’s signature.
  5. The student must correct their FAFSA® to include the signature, approval, and consent of their parent contributor once they are able to make corrections.

If the student does not correct their FAFSA®, their application will be rejected. As a result, they will not receive an SAI (Student Aid Index), and will not be eligible for federal financial aid.

What can students do? 

Impacted students should contact the financial aid office at their college(s) of choice to ask for personalized guidance. Financial aid offices are also able to provide updates about deadlines for filing the FAFSA®. Many colleges have moved back their priority financial aid deadline and/or decision deadline.

The Department

Students should consider the nuance of their individual circumstances before making the decision to file the paper FAFSA®. If a student does choose to still move forward with submitting the paper FAFSA®, they should consider attending a FAFSA® filing event to reduce the risk of errors. These events may be offered by a  state aid agency, financial aid office, or high school counselor.

Should you file the online FAFSA® if you’ve already submitted the paper application?

First, students should reach out to the financial aid office for personalized advice and to ask about the financial aid priority deadline. Submitting the online FAFSA® after submitting the paper application could be a misstep that causes a student to miss out on financial aid.

As mentioned before, ISIR data includes the date the student filed the FAFSA®, and this is the date used by colleges for determining if a student has met the priority deadline. If the student does submit the online application after sending in a paper application, the FAFSA® that is processed first will carry their FAFSA® filing date. Therefore, if a student submits the online form after the priority deadline, they could miss out on aid if the online FAFSA® application is processed first.

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Disclaimer: This blog post provides personal finance educational information, and it is not intended to provide legal, financial, or tax advice.

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