How to apply for FAFSA: Everything You Need to Know and More!

We’re kicking off the school year right by answering your FAFSA questions: how to apply for FAFSA, your FAFSA application, the FAFSA website, and of course the 2019 to 2020 FAFSA! Grab a slice of pizza and get comfy – we’re diving in!

Where do I start when I want to apply for FAFSA?

We’ll kick off your FAFSA application with an FSA ID. This is a combination of a username and password so you can easily sign your FAFSA form electronically. The FSA ID also gives you access to the myStudentAid app (filling out the FAFSA form on a mobile device), sign loan contracts, and other online access.

Student applying for FAFSA

Where should I apply? On a laptop? Phone? 

The FAFSA application is up to date on technology, so you can apply on a computer, laptop, phone, mobile device. Pretty much anywhere! If you’re going to apply for FAFSA on a phone or tablet, we recommend downloading the myStudentAid app. Here’s a link to the app for iOS and Android.

Okay, what documents do I need?

You’ll need a few documents, numbers, and personal information to include in your FAFSA application. Check with your family (parents) if you need access to some of these documents:

  • Your Social Security number
  • Your parents’ Social Security numbers if you are a dependent student
  • Your driver’s license number (if you have one – if not, don’t sweat it.)
  • Your Alien Registration number if you are not a U.S. citizen
  • Federal tax information or tax returns including IRS W-2 information, for you (and your spouse, if you are married), and for your parents if you are a dependent student:
  • IRS 1040
  • Foreign tax return, IRS 1040NR, or IRS 1040NR-EZ
  • Tax return for Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, or Palau
  • Untaxed income records, such as child support received, interest income, and veterans noneducation benefits, 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 where you live); and business and farm assets for you, and for your parents if you are a dependent student (check with your family and your bank for this information)
Student learning how to apply for FAFSA

What’s the FAFSA4Caster?

If you really want to get a head-start on your FAFSA application – and we mean a HUGE head-start! – you can use the FAFSA4Caster, an early estimate of your eligibility for financial aid. The FAFSA4Caster helps students who are not quite ready to apply for FAFSA yet. 

You can run through this program as early as middle school, but it’s recommended for high school juniors to complete the estimate once you’re closer to applying to college.

You’ll answer a series of questions, such as your college’s cost of attendance (COA), estimated Federal Pell Grant, Federal Work-Study, and maximum direct subsidized loan, plus direct unsubsidized loan.

Keep in mind, you must answer every question. The FAFSA mentions even if you have to estimate on a question, make sure you answer it completely.

Financial aid, finding college savings

What else do I have to do with the FAFSA4Caster?

You’ll also need to enter the state where you plan to attend college, and the college aid you expect – or hope – to receive to fund your tuition. You can search for college tuitions prior to filling out the FAFSA4Caster.

One more thing – you’ll enter your Estimated Family Contribution (EFC). Your EFC isn’t connected to what your family would monetarily contribute to your tuition. Rather, your EFC will be the amount of aid you’re eligible to receive based on family size, income, and other factors.

What if I want to compare college COAs?

Sure! You can compare schools by writing down or printing your FAFSA4Caster and then starting over and repeating all of the above steps. When you get to the state and college aid section, just enter the amount of the new school’s tuition to estimate how much aid you’ll need.

If you have any other questions about the FAFSA4Caster, just reach out to our team here and we’ll try our merry best to answer your questions!

Student excited to apply for FAFSA

Alright. What if I’m ready to apply for FAFSA?

Then you’re in the right place! We’ve got a handy list of FAFSA deadlines right here, so check these out and apply ASAP. FAFSA submissions begin as soon as the new calendar is rolled out on October 1.

If you want the full rundown, you can check out our step-by-step FAFSA instructions here.

Kelly Lamano

Though always a creative, Kelly's momentum into the world of writing and publishing arrived when she attended college. She quickly learned the financial value - and cost - of honing her craft, and sought scholarships that would be crucial to not only funding, but fueling her education. She wants to help new students thrive with Going Merry's easy scholarship finder. Kelly holds a bachelor's degree in Broadcast, Print and Online Media, and a minor in Spanish from Florida Southern College.

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