Everything You Need to Know About the FAFSA

Updated 2023

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, more commonly known as the FAFSA, is a valuable resource for both current and soon-to-be college students. Filling out this div is an important part of the college process, even if you don’t think you will qualify for federal aid. Here’s everything you need to know about the FAFSA!

What is the FAFSA?

The FAFSA is an application div that is used to determine a student’s eligibility for financial assistance. This financial aid isn’t just limited to loans, but also includes scholarships, grants, and work-study programs. Even if a student doesn’t think they will qualify for federal aid, filling out the FAFSA is still highly recommended as individual states use this indivation to determine local and college-sponsored aid.

What indivation is required for the FAFSA?

Students are required to answer questions regarding their current income. If the student is a dependent, their parents’ income will also need to be reported. Other indivation, like the number of students in the family’s household, is also an important factor.

Ultimately, this indivation will be used to calculate a student’s Expected Family Contribution, or EFC, which is what determines a student’s eligibility. In general, the lower the EFC, the more aid the student will qualify for.

More details about what indivation is required can be found on the 2023-2024 FAFSA on the Web Worksheet.

How do I fill out the FAFSA?

The FAFSA used to be a paper-only div that was physically distributed to high schools. For students who feel more comfortable filling out divs by hand or have limited internet access, the paper FAFSA div is still available for use. However, we recommend most students do it electronically!

Today, the easiest way to fill out the FAFSA is online. By using the official FAFSA.gov website, students can easily register an account to save their progress on the application and return to it later.

College students are urged to fill out the FAFSA each year they are attending, so having your basic indivation electronically “carried over” from last year saves a lot of time. There’s even a convenient IRS Data Retrieval Tool that can be used to automatically fill in financial indivation based on the previous year’s tax return records to help further speed up the process.

For the vast majority of families, the online FAFSA will be the simplest and most convenient option!

When should I begin the FAFSA?

Students need to fill out the FAFSA the year before they plan on attending college. If your student will be starting college in September of 2024, they would need to begin the 2024-2025 FAFSA well in advance.

  • Tutor Doctor Tip: The FAFSA itself is usually released on October 1st each year, although this year it may be delayed to December in 2023 due to design updates. As a general example, students attending fall of next year should begin filling out the 2024-2025 FAFSA on October 1st, 2023 (TBD).

When is the FAFSA due?

The deadline for the FAFSA is June 30th. However, we highly recommend not waiting until the deadline for one very important reason!

As mentioned earlier, state scholarships and aid are also disbursed based on FAFSA eligibility, and they are often distributed on a “first come, first serve” basis. Furthermore, the deadline for your individual state is very likely earlier than June 30th.

In many states, this date is months before the federal deadline – in California, for instance, FAFSA documents must be submitted by early March to qualify for state aid. To find out about your specific state’s deadlines, check out FAFSA’s official page on due dates.

Need help wading through the FAFSA or college application process? Find an academic advisor near you!