Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the first step in the financial aid process. You must fill out the FAFSA to apply for federal student financial aid, such as the Pell Grant, student loans, and college work-study. New York State and most colleges use your FAFSA to make their financial aid awards as well.
The sooner you fill out your FAFSA, the better. Many types of financial aid are distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis, so it’s to your advantage to file as early as possible. The FAFSA is available Oct. 1st for the following year's financial aid. Filing as soon as it is available ensures you will not miss any deadlines and are considered for all available financial aid.
To help make completing it a breeze, following is an overview of the FAFSA process.
Step 1: Get Your FSA ID
- Both the student and one parent need Federal Student Aid Identification Numbers (FSA IDs) to complete and electronically sign the FAFSA and other federal student aid documents
- Visit fsaid.ed.gov to get an FSA ID.
Step 2: Gather This Information
- Student’s social security number. Have the card to ensure number is correct.
- Student’s FSA ID.
- Parents’ date of birth.
- Parents’ social security numbers. Have the card to ensure number is correct.
- Parents’ FSA ID
- Student’s driver’s license number, if student has one.
- Student’s Permanent Alien Registration Number, if not a U.S. citizen.
- Copy of student’s 2019 Federal Income Tax Return.
- Copy of parents’ 2019 Federal Income Tax Return.
- Records of student’s 2019 untaxed income for the following sources of income:
- Child support received for any of the student's children
- Interest income
- Veterans non-education benefits
- Workers’ compensation benefits
- Money received or paid on your behalf
- Records of parents’ 2019 untaxed income for the following sources of income:
- Untaxed portion of pension benefits
- Untaxed payments to tax deferred pensions and retirement savings
- Untaxed portion of IRA distributions
- Workers’ compensation benefits
- Disability benefits
- Your email address
Step 3: Get Started!
- Visit http://www.fafsa.ed.gov to start the FAFSA.
- Answer all of the questions.
- Use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to upload your tax information into the FAFSA.
- If you choose not to, you may use the materials you gathered in Step 2 to answer the questions.
- IMPORTANT: Complete the TAP Application!
- If you include a college in New York on your FAFSA, start your NYS TAP application.
- Use the link on the confirmation page of your FAFSA to complete your TAP application.
What Happens Next
- You’ll get a Student Aid Report (SAR) summarizing your FAFSA and indicating your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Review it and make any corrections needed.
- Watch for email notices. HESC will email news to you about your TAP application and award status or ask for more information.
- After you are accepted at college, you’ll get an award letter from your college showing the financial aid you can expect if you attend that school. Consider the options outlined in the letter including grants, scholarships, loans and work-study programs.
- Talk to a financial aid professional at the college if you have any questions about your financial aid award letter. You should accept or decline the aid package by the deadline and complete any other forms required by the school.
- Use the Financial Aid Award Packages comparison tool to highlight the significant differences, calculate the net cost, and estimate the total cost of your education.
FAFSA follow-up is available at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov. This site provides resources for managing your FAFSA, including allowing you to:
- Add or delete a school code
- Check the status of a submitted FAFSA or print signature page which is available one week after submission if you used your FSA ID to sign your application, and two to three weeks after submission if you printed, signed and mailed a signature page.
- View and print your Student Aid Report (SAR)
- Make corrections to a processed FAFSA
Apply for Aid Each Year You’re in College
Remember, you need to complete the FAFSA not just once, but every year you plan to attend school. If you filled out a FAFSA the year before, you can probably use the shorter Renewal FAFSA and TAP application.
Watch out for organizations that charge a fee to submit your application. You can fill it out for free.
Be wary of organizations that charge a fee to find you money for school. Some are legitimate and some are scams.
Generally, any help that you pay for can be received free from your college financial aid office and HESC.