A Guide to Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

A laptop with a view of FAFSA website.

A Guide to Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

What is FAFSA?

For students in the United States preparing to attend college, filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is an essential step in securing financial aid. High school students might wonder, “What is FAFSA?” FAFSA is a free application form students must complete to apply for federal financial aid for college or graduate school.

The federal government uses the information from the FAFSA to calculate a student’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which is the amount of money the government expects a student and their family to contribute towards the cost of education. The lower a student’s EFC, the more financial aid they may be eligible to receive.

FAFSA is essential for many students because it’s the gateway to federal financial aid programs. These programs can provide students the financial assistance they need to attend colleges, such as Pell Grants, work-study programs, and federal student loans.

View of FAFSa forms strewn on the table.

Additionally, many states and colleges use FAFSA information to determine a student’s eligibility for their financial aid programs. Some private scholarships may also require FAFSA completion as part of their application process.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial tool for students in the United States who need financial assistance to attend college or graduate school. By providing information about their income, assets, and family situation, students can determine their eligibility for federal financial aid programs and maximize their chances of receiving financial assistance.

When Is the FAFSA Due for the 2023-2024 Academic Year?

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is an essential step in securing financial aid for students who are U.S. citizens and permanent residents.

If you are a prospective applicant of financial assistance, you might wonder, “When is the FAFSA due for the 2023-2024 academic year?” The FAFSA form opened last October 1, 2022. The deadline for federal financial aid programs is typically June 30 of the year following the academic year for which you’re applying. For example, the FAFSA deadline for fall 2023 would be June 30, 2024.

Portrait of young nerdy student studying with textbooks and write quotations on a book in the class

Many states and colleges have their own FAFSA deadlines, which can be much earlier. Some states and colleges may have a deadline as early as February or March, so it’s important to check with your state or college to determine the specific deadline.

The College Application Deadline

The first due date is set by the colleges themselves. College deadlines vary by school, but they usually arrive well before the start of the academic year. If you are applying to multiple colleges, check the FAFSA deadlines for each one and apply early.

Priority deadlines apply to many college FAFSA due dates, which means you must submit your FAFSA form by that date in order to potentially receive the most fund from the college. This date is prominently displayed on many colleges’ financial aid websites. You may contact the financial aid office at the school for more information about the deadline and requirements.

The State Application Due Date

Your home state determines the second deadline. Some states have hard deadlines, while others suggest dates to ensure that you receive priority consideration for college funding.

Since many states have limited funds, FAFSA deadlines may be quite early. If your state’s deadline is “as soon as possible after October 1,” you should submit your FAFSA form promptly.

The Federal Application Deadline

This final deadline comes from the US Department of Education, also known as the FAFSA. The FAFSA form for that academic year becomes unavailable after June 30 each year. The 2023-24 school year ends on June 30, 2024, and the 2023-24 FAFSA form will be removed from StudentAid.gov.

You might be curious why there are so many deadlines. Financial aid is distributed differently and at different times by each of these entities (college, state, and federal). What they all have in common is that they all use the FAFSA form to determine eligibility for their aid programs.

Group of students walking next to a building.

So, if a college wants to offer financial aid before the start of the academic year, it needs your FAFSA form. If you want to be eligible for the fund to help you pay for college, you must submit the form as soon as you can. The same is true for government assistance programs.

Furthermore, many outside scholarship programs require your FAFSA form before they will consider your application. If you’re applying for scholarships, you should also keep track of the deadlines.

It’s essential to submit your FAFSA as soon as possible to maximize your chances of receiving financial aid. Some financial aid programs, like the Federal Pell Grant, are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, so it’s important to submit your FAFSA early to ensure that you don’t miss out on financial aid opportunities.

Who Qualifies for FAFSA?

The FAFSA is used to determine a student’s eligibility for federal financial aid, including grants, loans, and work-study programs. However, before submitting applications, one important query must be answered. Who qualifies for FAFSA? Let’s discuss the eligibility requirements for FAFSA.

To be eligible for federal financial aid through the FAFSA, you must meet the following requirements:

  1. Financial Need: You must demonstrate financial need, as determined by the information you provide on the FAFSA.
  2. Citizenship or Eligible Noncitizen Status: You must be a U.S. citizen or an eligible noncitizen, such as a permanent resident or refugee.
  3. Valid Social Security Number: You are required to submit your number except if you are from the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, or the Republic of Palau.
  4. High School Diploma or GED: You must have a high school diploma or GED certificate.
  5. Enrollment in an Eligible Program: You must be enrolled or accepted for enrollment as a regular student in an eligible degree or certificate program at an eligible institution. To be eligible for Direct Loan Program funds, you must be enrolled at least half-time.
  6. Satisfactory Academic Progress: You must maintain satisfactory academic progress as determined by your school.
  7. Certification Statement on the FAFSA: You must sign the certification statement on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form stating that you are not in default on a federal student loan, that you owe nothing on a federal student grant, and that you will only use federal student aid for educational purposes only.
  8. College or Career Education Eligibility: You must demonstrate your eligibility for a college or career school education.

In some cases, such as for non-US citizens, students with intellectual disabilities, and other special circumstances, additional eligibility requirements may apply.

Even if you believe you will not be eligible for federal financial assistance, you should still complete the FAFSA. Many schools and states use the FAFSA to determine eligibility for their own financial aid programs, and some scholarships and grants require a completed FAFSA as part of the application process.

How to Fill Out FAFSA for the 2023-2024 School Year?

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial form for students seeking financial aid to attend college. You can complete the FAFSA on the Federal Student Aid website.

Now, how to fill out FAFSA for the 2023-2024 school year? Let’s go over a step-by-step guide for completing the FAFSA.

Gather Required Information

1. Before starting the application process, you will need to gather the following information:

2. Your Social Security number (for U.S. citizens and permanent residents)

3. Alien Registration number (if you are not a U.S. citizen)

4. Federal tax information, documents, or returns, including IRS W-2 information, for you (and your spouse, if married), and for your parents if you are a dependent student:

  • IRS Form1040
  • Foreign tax return or IRS Form 1040-NR
  • Tax return for students from Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, or Palau

5. For dependent students, records of any untaxed income, such as child support received, interest income, and veterans non-education benefits

6. Information about your savings, checking account balances, investments, and other assets, including stocks and bonds and real estate (but excluding your primary residence), and farm and business assets (if available) for you and your parents if you are a dependent student.

7. A list of schools you are considering attending

Create An FSA ID

To fill out the FAFSA, you will need to create a Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID, which serves as your electronic signature. If you are a dependent student, your parent will also need to create an FSA ID.

Make sure to enter your name and Social Security number exactly as they appear on your Social Security card when creating your FSA ID. Then, when you go to fafsa.gov to begin your application and indicate that you are a student, you will be given the option of entering your FSA ID or your “identifiers” (your name, date of birth, and SSN).

Begin the Application

Once you have all the necessary information and your FSA ID, you can begin the application process at fafsa.gov. Start a new application, and provide your personal information, including your name, address, and contact information.

Complete the Dependency Status Section

If you are a dependent student, you will need to complete the Dependency Status section. This section determines whether you are considered dependent or independent for financial aid purposes. If you are considered a dependent student, you will need to provide your parent’s information as well.

Answer the Financial Information Section

Next, you will need to provide information about your financial situation. This includes your income, your parents’ income (if you are a dependent student), and any untaxed income or assets. The FAFSA will use this information to calculate your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which is the amount you and your family are expected to contribute toward your education.

Select the Schools You Want to Receive Your FAFSA Information

After providing your financial information, you will need to select the schools you are considering attending. You can select up to ten schools to receive your FAFSA information. Find the colleges you want to include on your FAFSA form using the Federal School Code Search. Make sure you provide the correct school codes for each institution.

Sign and Submit Your FAFSA

Finally, review your information to ensure it is accurate and complete. Once you’ve completed the FAFSA, you’ll need to sign and submit it using your FSA ID. If you’re a dependent student, your parent or guardian will also need to sign the FAFSA using their FSA ID.

Check Your Email for Updates

After submitting your FAFSA form online, you can immediately check its status by going to fafsa.gov and logging in with your username and password. Please keep in mind that only the student has access to the status.

In addition, regularly check your email (including spam) for messages from Federal Student Aid or your college. For further questions or concerns, you can reach out to your school’s financial aid office for assistance.

Can You Apply to College Without FAFSA?

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a critical component of the college financial aid process. However, some students may wonder, “Can you apply to college without FAFSA?”

The good news is it is possible to apply to college without submitting the FAFSA. Many private colleges and universities do not require a FAFSA for admission.

FAFSA application form

If you opt not to submit the FAFSA, it means you will not be considered for federal financial aid, which includes grants, loans, and work-study programs. Additionally, some colleges and universities use the FAFSA to determine eligibility for institutional aid, funding the school provides directly.

If you choose not to submit the FAFSA, exploring other sources of financial aid is essential. This may include scholarships, grants, and private loans. Be sure to research these options and apply for them early in the college application process.

Why Is FAFSA Important?

Why is FAFSA Important? While filling out the FAFSA can be a challenging process for students, it is crucial to understand its importance in the college financial aid process. Let’s know more about the importance of completing this form.

Access to Federal Financial Aid

The primary reason why the FAFSA is important is that it is used to determine a student’s eligibility for federal financial aid, including grants, loans, and work-study programs. Federal financial aid is critical for many students who may not have the means to pay for college on their own. The FAFSA is the gateway to accessing these funds.

Access to State and Institutional Financial Aid

In addition to federal financial aid, many states and colleges use the FAFSA to determine eligibility for state and institutional financial aid. This means that not filling out the FAFSA could potentially limit a student’s access to other sources of financial aid.

Cost of Attendance

The FAFSA is also important because it is used to determine a student’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which is the amount a student and their family are expected to contribute toward the cost of attendance. The EFC is based on a variety of factors, including income, assets, and family size. The EFC is used by colleges and universities to determine a student’s financial need, which is the difference between the cost of attendance and the EFC.

Scholarship Opportunities

The FAFSA is also used by some scholarship programs to determine eligibility for their awards. Even if a student does not qualify for federal or state financial aid, submitting the FAFSA can potentially open up scholarship opportunities.

Most families, regardless of income or assets, will find it beneficial to complete the FAFSA. Attending college can be quite expensive, with costs varying depending on the institution and the type of program. Fortunately, there are various types of financial aid available to help students cover the cost of attending college.

Approximately two-thirds of all college students receive financial aid based on their family’s financial situation. Students must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA to apply for need-based financial aid and other scholarships and grants available.

Apart from FAFSA and looking for additional financial resources to afford your college education, getting through the college admissions process is another hurdle you must overcome. Preparing your college application while doing well in your last years in high school will be very challenging; however, college admissions experts are willing to assist you.

AdmissionSight has been in the college admissions consulting industry for the past ten years. About 75% of our students are admitted to Ivy League universities such as Stanford, MIT, UChicago, and Caltech, giving us one of the best track records in the industry. If you would like to know more about AdmissionSight and what we can offer, book an appointment for an initial consultation right away.

We are looking forward to working with you in the future!


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