All Your FAFSA® Questions Answered

We know that filing the FAFSA® can be confusing, so we’ve answered your top questions to help make the process as quick and painless as possible!

Questions Answers
When Should You File Your FAFSA®  
Does the FAFSA® need to be filed every year you are in college? Yes, you will need to file it for every year you are in college. You may also file it for graduate schools.
What if you are interested in summer school. Would completing the application now be appropriate? You should contact your school’s financial aid office to see which FAFSA® year they require for the summer session.
Who Should File the FAFSA®  
Does the student file the FAFSA® or parent? The student files the FAFSA®. However, it does ask questions that require the parent’s information and tax forms. Unless you’re an independent student.
Does each student need to file their own FAFSA®? Each child in a family should have their own individual FAFSA® application.
Do you need to be a US citizen/ resident to be eligible for FAFSA®? While only US citizens and eligible non-citizens are eligible for Federal aid, all students attending school in the US should file their FAFSA®, as many schools will use the FAFSA® to determine your eligibility for other forms of aid.
What about Canadians, are we eligible for FAFSA®? Only US Citizens and Eligible Permanent Residents should file the FAFSA®. If you are a citizen of both the US and Canada, you can file.
I’m disabled, do I still need to file for FAFSA®? Yes, you should still file the FAFSA® to get financial aid.
For Parents  
Why would students and parents apply together? The FAFSA® is designed to be filed by the student, but if they are dependent students, the parent’s information is required on their application.
Is this for biological parents only? No. The FAFSA® limits the definition of a legal parent to a “biological or adoptive parent, or a person that the state has determined to be your parent.” Grandparents, other relatives, Godparents, foster parents, and legal guardians do not qualify as legal parents unless they have formally adopted the student.
What if the student has a legal guardian?
If the student’s legal guardian was appointed by the court, they will be considered an independent student for FAFSA® purposes.
My parents are divorced, how do I fill in the parent financial section? The parent you’ve lived with most over the last year should be used in the parent financial section. If you spent equal time with both parents, enter the information of the parent who provided more financial support.
My parents are recently divorced and the most recent tax return has both of them. How do I fill out the parent financial section? Use the tax year required by FAFSA®, but you can subtract out the financial information of the parent not listed on the application. In other words, only list the income and financial information of the custodial parent listed on your application.
What is the best way to file if the parents are divorced and the custodial parent provides all of the financial support but the non-custodial parent makes significantly less money? If the student lived with both parents for an equal amount of time over the last year, federal law then requires students to list the parent that provides the majority of financial support.
My parents haven’t filed taxes in a couple of years, how does the financial section work? If the parent was not required to file taxes for the requested tax year, there will be no problems processing the application. If they were required to pay taxes but filed for an extension, they will have to file their taxes before your FAFSA® can be processed.
How do you account for a parent with pension income? Income from pensions is addressed in the tax section of the application. The FAFSA® will direct you to specific line items related to pension income.
Does a step-parent’s income need to be entered? Yes, if your step-parent is living with the custodial parent listed on your application.
Do parents need to create an FSA ID? Yes.
Can you fill out a FAFSA® even if you have not decided what college/university you will be attending; do I need to know which school I want to go to prior to filling out the FAFSA®? You don’t have to know which school you are going to attend to file your FAFSA®. You can list up to 10 schools on your application.
Do I need to list a college/university at all on my FAFSA® Application in order to receive aid? Yes, you should list every school you plan to attend or they cannot process an aid package for you.
Can I add schools to my FAFSA® after I’ve filed? Yes.
Can I add more than 10 schools to my FAFSA®? Yes, just not all at the same time. You can go back later and update your school list.
What if I put certain schools on the FAFSA®, then I attend a school I did not list? You can add schools to the FAFSA® after you’ve completed it.
Can we fill out FAFSA® if we haven’t completed applications yet for selected colleges? Yes, just make sure to list the schools you plan to apply for on the FAFSA®®
What is a 529 and how does it relate to FAFSA®?

A 529 plan is one of the many options parents have for saving for their children’s college education. States and educational institutions operate these plans, and they’re designed to help families put aside money for future college expenses.  See more here.

Money & Tax Information on the FAFSA®  
Is there a salary cap for FAFSA® There are no income limits for 2020. You can fill out the FAFSA® no matter your economic situation and see if you qualify for some financial aid.
Do I only input information for my personal taxes or also business taxes? The information varies based on your personal circumstances, but in general, you’ll want to include anything that covers income. See more here.
How do I upload my tax return? You can upload it using the “Data retrieval tool” through the FAFSA®.gov website.
What tax return is required for filing? For the 2022-2023 school year the 2020 tax returns are required.
How is FAFSA®accounting for income reductions in 2020 from COVID? If you or your parent have been negatively affected financially by COVID, contact your school’s financial aid office immediately after completing your FAFSA®. Explain that your financial situation has changed and request a “professional judgment.”
Where do we get our tax ID number? A tax ID number is not required for FAFSA® purposes. If you need to get a tax ID number for tax purposes, you can do so through the IRS.
Does child support count as income? There is a specific question on the FAFSA® related to child support paid and child support received.
Does 401k withdrawal have any impact on aid package? If you withdraw money during the tax year required for FAFSA® that money will count as income.
What is an EFC? The EFC is a tool that universities use to determine how much aid you’re eligible to receive. They deduct the EFC from the cost of attendance (COA) to figure out how much financial aid you need. Learn more here.
Does credit score impact aid? Not unless you are applying for Private Student Loans.
Does a college savings plan impact aid? While these college savings accounts do need to be reported on the FAFSA®, their impact on a student’s EFC score is typically minimal. The primary downside of 529 plans and Coverdell accounts is that there is a 10% penalty levied on any money withdrawn for any purpose other than a qualified education expense.
What are common errors people make on their FAFSA® application? Common errors include including the wrong information, supplying the wrong social security number, and not completing the app in a timely matter. Learn about more common mistakes here.
Do I need to be accepted into a school to receive aid? While you don’t need to be accepted to apply for aid, you cannot receive any until you are accepted and enrolled.
Can I only receive aid from the school I apply to? Yes, you must be applied and enrolled to get aid from any school.
How does FAFSA® work with early-decision? No matter when you are accepted, your FAFSA® must be completed before the deadline for you to get aid.
How do I get an FSA ID? To create an FSA ID, you’ll need to head over to the Federal Student Aid website. Read more about the FSA ID here.
If I (the student) already have an FSA ID do I need to create another one? No, you must use the same one every year.
Does the parent need to create an FSA ID? Yes.
Should I create an FSA ID before I start or file the FAFSA®? Yes, you should create one before you start the FAFSA®.
Am I able to link a student’s FSA ID to parents?? No. They are two separate IDs that identify one from the other.
What if you have a suffix in your name (i.e. ‘III’, ‘Jr’)? Include it in the name section.
Do I use the same FSA ID every year? Yes, use the same ID every year.
What Is This FAFSA® Year?  
 If I am a high school senior on 10/01/2022, which school year do I apply for? You should apply for the 2023-2024 school year.  

Important FAFSA® Deadlines

Academic Year FAFSA® Open FAFSA® Deadline Corrections Due
2022-2023 October 1, 2021 June 30, 2023 September 10, 2023
2023-2024 October 1, 2022 June 30, 2024 September 10, 2024

You can learn more about FAFSA® deadlines in this post.

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