How Do You Fill Out Your FAFSA Application?

In completing your Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application, you can choose to apply online (recommended), complete the FAFSA in PDF and then mail for processing, or request a paper FAFSA by calling 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243) or 319-337-5665. If you are hearing impaired, contact the TTY line at 1-800-730-8913.


The PDF FAFSA is available for you to print and fill out manually or is screen fillable. Screen fillable means you can enter your data on the screen before printing. Choosing the PDF option means you are able to save your data on your pc.


Filling out the FAFSA® can be a straightforward and easy process. The online FAFSA at will guide you through the application; click on the “Start A New FAFSA” button on the home page, and just follow the directions on the screen. Here are some tips to help you along the way.




Here is the complete process in filling out your FAFSA application

  • Getting an FSA ID
  • Gathering the Documents Needed to Apply
  • Getting Help
  • Starting Your FAFSA® and Providing Your Basic Personal Information


  • Listing Colleges and/or Career Schools
  • Determining Your Dependency Status
  • Reporting Parents’ Information
  • Providing Financial Information (Before or After Filing Taxes)
  • Determining When Tax Information Will Be Available Via the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (IRS DRT)




After filling out the application form, you can

  • Sign and Submit the FAFSA
  • Take the Next Steps


To apply for most financial aid, including federal and state student grants, work-study, and loans — you’ll need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Although this financial aid form may seem complex, there are many free resources to help you. And completing the form is easier than it used to be.


You can complete, submit and track your application online. This is the easiest way to apply for federal aid. The online program even checks your data before it is transmitted to the processing center, so there’s less chance of making an error.


You don’t have to file your income tax return before you fill out the FAFSA, but it’s a good idea to do so. A lot of the requested information is the same, and you may be able to use the time-saving IRS Data Retrieval Tool.


If your college has an early financial aid application deadline, you may need to complete your FAFSA before your income tax return is ready. Just estimate your and your parents’ income as best as you can on the FAFSA. Don’t worry — you can return and update your information once your tax returns have been filed.


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Adverse Credit History

A credit history is a summary of your financial strength, including your history of paying bills and your ability to repay future loans. To qualify for a PLUS loan, you cannot have an adverse credit history. Your credit history may be considered adverse if you are experiencing any of the following credit conditions


  • Bankruptcy discharge within the past five years.
  • Voluntary surrender of personal property to avoid repossession within the last five years.
  • Repossession of collateral within the last five years.
  • Foreclosure proceedings started.
  • Foreclosure within the last five years.
  • Conveying your real property that is subject to a mortgage (by deed) to your lender to avoid foreclosure (deed in lieu of foreclosure).
  • Accounts currently 90 days or more delinquent.
  • Unpaid collection accounts.
  • Charge-offs/write-offs of federal student loans.
  • Wage garnishment within the last five years.
  • Defaulting on a loan, even if the claim has been paid.
  • Lease or contract terminated by default.
  • County/state/federal tax lien within the past five years.





Cost of Attendance (COA)

The total amount it will cost you to go to school—usually stated as a yearly figure. COA includes tuition and fees; room and board (or a housing and food allowance); and allowances for books, supplies, transportation, loan fees, and dependent care. It also includes miscellaneous and personal expenses, including an allowance for the rental or purchase of a personal computer; costs related to a disability; and reasonable costs for eligible study-abroad programs. For students attending less than half-time, the COA includes tuition and fees and an allowance for books, supplies, transportation, and dependent care expenses, and can also include room and board for up to three semesters or the equivalent at the institution. But no more than two of those semesters, or the equivalent, may be consecutive. Contact the financial aid administrator at the school you’re planning to attend if you have any unusual expenses that might affect your COA.



Data Release Number (DRN)

The four-digit number assigned to your FAFSA that allows you to release your FAFSA data to schools you did not list on your original FAFSA. You need this number if you contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center to make corrections to your mailing address or the schools you listed on your FAFSA. You find this number below the confirmation number on your FAFSA submission confirmation page or in the top right-hand corner of your Student Aid Report (SAR).



Dependent Student

A student who does not meet any of the criteria for an independent student. An independent student is one of the following: at least 24 years old, married, a graduate or professional student, a veteran, a member of the armed forces, an orphan, a ward of the court, someone with legal dependents other than a spouse, an emancipated minor or someone who is homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.



Independent Student

An independent student is one of the following: at least 24 years old, married, a graduate or professional student, a veteran, a member of the armed forces, an orphan, a ward of the court, or someone with legal dependents other than a spouse, an emancipated minor or someone who is homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.



Eligible Noncitizen

A U.S. national (includes natives of American Samoa or Swains Island), U.S. permanent resident (who has an I-151, I-551 or I-551C [Permanent Resident Card]), or an individual who has an Arrival-Departure Record (I-94) from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) showing one of the following designations

  • “Refugee”


  • “Asylum Granted”


  • “Cuban-Haitian Entrant (Status Pending)”


  • “Conditional Entrant” (valid only if issued before April 1, 1980)


  • Victims of human trafficking, T-visa (T-2, T-3, or T-4, etc.) holder


  • “Parolee” (You must be paroled into the United States for at least one year and you must be able to provide evidence from the USCIS that you are in the United States for other than a temporary purpose and that you intend to become a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.)


  • If you meet the noncitizen criteria above, you are eligible to receive federal student aid. If you are unsure of your eligibility, please check with your school’s financial aid office for more information.




FAFSA Process Infographic





How much you’re eligible for will depend on the financial and personal information you provide on the FAFSA. Federal processors evaluate the data, determine your family’s ability to pay, and then tell you how much you and your family should contribute toward college, aka your Expected Family Contribution.


The form has been simplified greatly in recent years, but it can be still be a little intimidating; however, it’s well worth the effort to fill it out and easy to do if you take it step-by-step. And don’t forget, it’s free to file, so you have nothing to lose.




View the PDF and click on the arrow at the bottom of the PDF to be able to view the next page.





Each year, more than 13 million undergraduate and graduate students receive some form of federal financial aid. To get your share, you must first file the federal government’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid, better known as the FAFSA.


It determines eligibility for all federal aid programs, from Pell Grants to student loans. It determines eligibility for most state and collegiate-based aid programs. And, it even indirectly determines eligibility for some merit-based aid, since many schools reserve their own (limited) scholarships for students who don’t qualify for need-based funds.




How To Fill Out The FAFSA Application

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