What Do I Need to Know Before My Child Starts the FAFSA® Form?

Filing a FAFSA® for federal financial aid can be a complicated process, so it’s important for parents to help their children stay organized to ensure the application is completed properly. Below is a list of documents and information the FAFSA® requires to help make the process easier.

What is the FAFSA®?

The FAFSA® is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Schools use the information provided on the application to assess a student’s financial need. From there, the school will create a financial aid offer consisting of federally funded loans, grants and scholarships.

Additionally, the FAFSA® is often used to judge a student’s candidacy for aid provided by the school and the state.

What does my child need to file his or her FAFSA®?

Student’s Personal Information

Your child will need to provide the following personal information:

  • Name
  • Date of Birth
  • Contact Information
  • Marital Status
  • Social Security Number
  • Alien Registration Number (for eligible noncitizens)

Parent Information

If your child is determined to be a dependent student by the FAFSA®, you will need to provide the following information as the parent:

  • Name
  • Date of Birth
  • Contact Information
  • Marital Status
  • Family Size

Financial Information (both you and your child)

You and your child will need to provide your financial information so your child’s financial need can be properly assessed. The FAFSA® requires income information from two years prior to the academic year for which aid is requested (so 2018 for the 2020-2021 FAFSA®), as well as cash and asset values from the day you are filing.

You and your child should have the following information handy:

  • Tax returns from two years prior to the academic year for which aid is requested
  • W2 forms from two years prior to the academic year for which aid is requested
  • Bank account and investment values
  • Records of any untaxed income

If you’re divorced there are some special considerations to keep in mind, you can read more about those here.

List of schools

Your child will need to know to which schools he or she would like their FAFSA® sent. Students must list a minimum of one school before the application can be processed, with 10 being the maximum.

FSA ID

The FSA ID serves as an individual’s electronic signature and will be needed for you and your child to be able to sign his or her FAFSA® online. You can create an FSA ID at the FSA website.

Your FSA ID is tied to your social security number, so you will only be able to create it once.

What else should I know?

File Early

Financial aid is given on a first come, first served basis, so it’s important to file as early as possible. The application opens on October 1st the year before the academic year for which aid is being requested. The 2020-2021 FAFSA® will open on October 1, 20189.

Deadlines

The federal deadline for filing is June 30th after the academic year is over. For the 2020-2021 FAFSA®, students can file as late as June 30, 2020 and still be considered eligible.

Many states and schools have their own deadlines, so your child will need to monitor those dates to ensure they don’t miss out on additional aid.