Financial Aid

What is the FAFSA?

Learn when the FAFSA opens, how to get an FSA ID, what information you must list on the FAFSA, and how to submit it to schools.
man using laptop to complete the FAFSA

On October 1st, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) opens for current and incoming college students interested in applying for financial aid for the upcoming academic year. For those of you new to the financial aid process, or anyone else who'd like an overview, here's a quick intro to the FAFSA:

  • The FAFSA is the application required by all colleges distributing federal or state financial aid, which is practically every school in the nation, so even if the colleges to which you're applying require other financial aid applications, you'll still have to complete the FAFSA.
  • Before completing the FAFSA, you'll want to register for an FSA ID. Both the student and parent will need an FSA ID to electronically sign the FAFSA once it's completed. Head over to to secure your FSA ID now.
  • Be sure to complete the FAFSA on the official FAFSA website: The FAFSA is a free application, so no fee should ever be paid to submit the FAFSA to the schools of your choice.
  • The FAFSA will require information on the family's household (who lives in the house and who's attending college) and finances (parent and student income and assets). It's helpful to have the following documents on hand before sitting down to begin: federal tax return, records of any untaxed income, W-2 forms, and bank and investments statements. The birth dates and social security numbers of both parent and student will be required, as well as the student's driver's license number.
  • You'll be able to submit your FAFSA electronically to ten schools. If you're applying to more than ten schools, send your FAFSA to your first ten, wait until you receive your Student Aid Report (SAR)—usually sent about 3 days after FAFSA submission—and then re-submit your FAFSA to your additional schools.

Feel free to give us a call, (800) 449-MEFA (6332), or send us an email,, with any questions as you navigate the FAFSA. And remember to meet those college financial aid deadlines! Filing on time is the most important step.

Watch the Understanding the FAFSA webinar