Keeping the Promise: The Enhanced myStudentAid Mobile App

By: Chief Operating Officer Mark Brown, Federal Student Aid

The commitments—the promises—we make to ourselves and others are important. It means a lot when someone does what they say they’re going to do.
That’s why at Federal Student Aid, we’ve worked so hard to keep our promise to you to deliver the best federal student aid experience we can provide.

In the past year, we’ve launched several new tools and improved others, like the Annual Student Loan Acknowledgment, Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Help Tool, and Loan Simulator. These resources support you as you apply for federal student aid, determine your eligibility for loan forgiveness based on public service employment, and develop a repayment strategy based on your unique goals and needs.
Just last month, I promised that Federal Student Aid would continue to give you information, resources, and tools to modernize your student aid experience and make it easier to navigate successfully. And this month, I’m pleased to share that we’ve enhanced our myStudentAid mobile app to give you an even more personalized federal student aid experience on your mobile device.
In 2018, FSA launched the myStudentAid mobile app and, for the first time, a mobile-responsive Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form. Since then, students and parents have submitted more than five million FAFSA forms via a mobile device.
This month, we added improved features to the myStudentAid mobile app, including the ability for you to complete the 2021–22 FAFSA form directly in the app. Before these enhancements, the previous version of the mobile app pointed users to their internet browser on their phone or tablet to complete the FAFSA form. It was important to us to give you—students, parents, and preparers—an enhanced in-app FAFSA experience.

We’ve also added the ability for you to access a personalized dashboard, view detailed information with My Aid Summary, and get important notifications within the app’s Notification Center. And, we refreshed the mobile app’s look and feel to make it consistent with StudentAid.gov.
The personalized dashboard feature, which you may have used on StudentAid.gov, will now be available within the mobile app. You can use the mobile app to access your personalized dashboard that summarizes your federal aid, highlights any upcoming loan payments, and provides relevant content and checklists to help you navigate your federal student aid journey.

The personalization doesn’t stop there. The myStudentAid mobile app gives you the ability to view your detailed My Aid Summary. Like the My Aid Summary feature on StudentAid.gov, the app experience will allow you to view your loan servicer, loan, and grant information, as well as other aid details, such as your remaining Direct Loan and Pell Grant eligibility, the number of qualifying payments you’ve made toward Public Service Loan Forgiveness, and more.

You’ll be able to get important notifications and account updates—such as alerts about recertifying your income for your income-driven repayment plan—within the Notification Center. These notices are unique to you and can help remind you about important steps you may need to take to successfully manage your federal student aid.

I encourage you to download the myStudentAid mobile app, which is available for iOS and Android devices, and use it to make your federal student aid journey a success. At Federal Student Aid, we will keep our promise to you to deliver the information, tools, and resources you need. During the holiday season, I wish you and your loved ones good health and happiness.

College Scorecard Launches New Tools to Help Students Find the Right Fit

College Scorecard is an interactive website that helps students find the right fit after high school. It provides students access to data on the cost of college, potential post-graduate debt and earnings based on fields of study (including for certificate programs, 2-year degrees, 4-year degrees, and graduate programs), and institutional graduation rates. College Scorecard also provides a link to information on apprenticeships. If you’re trying to figure out the next step on your learning journey, College Scorecard is the right place to start.

Today, the U.S. Department of Education launched new updates to the College Scorecard, including a new tool that allows users to find, compare, and contrast different fields of study more easily. Whatever you might be interested in, whether it be agriculture, computer science, nursing, welding, etc., a certificate, associate’s degree, or bachelor’s degree, you can now use the tool to make side-by-side comparisons for fields of study across and within colleges and universities that interest you.

College Scorecard is also pleased to announce the addition of new data on the typical earnings of graduates two years post-graduation for individual fields of study. Previously, only first-year post-completion earnings were available by field of study. Each year, as more and more data become available, the College Scorecard will continue to expand upon earnings data points further out into the future to give students a better sense of earnings potential.
College Scorecard continues to provide information on the typical amount of federal loan debt of students. Today’s new additions include more information on the loan debt of students who transfer from one school to another. For example, students who transfer from community colleges to four-year institutions. Also, look for newly published data on the amount of federal debt parents take out to help their children pay for school. Taken together, these enhancements provide a fuller picture of the typical amount of federal debt students and families may be expected to incur when deciding among programs and across institutions.
College Scorecard continues to improve as a free resource to prospective students to help them find the right college fit. For more information on these new features and to launch a college search today, visit collegescorecard.ed.gov.
Brian Fu
Office of the Chief Data Officer, OPEPD

Launch of New Tool to Track Education CARES Act Funding

By: Brent Madoo and Shannon McCaulley, Office of the Chief Data Officer, OPEPD
As COVID-19 caused unprecedented disruption to education, Congress and the Trump Administration took quick action to provide billions in funding to help learning continue for students of all ages.  The passage of the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act appropriated $30.75 billion for an Education Stabilization Fund.  The Department of Education worked swiftly to ensure that the taxpayer funds went to states, equivalent outlying areas, schools, and institutions of higher education to address the learning needs and well-being of students across the country.The Education Stabilization Fund (ESF) is distributed primarily through the (1) Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund, (2) Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund, and (3) Higher Education Emergency Relief (HEER) Fund. Each fund is unique and has specific purposes to help students continue to learn during the pandemic. To promote transparency and accountability for use of the funds, the Department created the ESF Transparency Portal website at covid-relief-data.ed.gov.
This initial launch of covid-relief-data.ed.gov will provide the public with insight into where the Department’s emergency relief funds are being sent. In a subsequent update, after annual data are collected from grantees, covid-relief-data.ed.gov will provide more information, including information about how those funds are being spent. The Department’s ultimate goal is to empower students, teachers, parents and local education leaders with clear, transparent information on how the unprecedented taxpayer investment is being used to address the educational needs of our nation’s schools and its students impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Here are some key features of the website to help the public learn more.
Interactive State Maps and Charts
Through a variety of visual displays, the ESF data is searchable and understandable. Users can explore each of the three relief programs and see how the funds were allocated at the state level and equivalent outlying area through an interactive map.

Discover More in State Profiles
The ESF portal allows users to explore funding at the state-level through the state profile pages, which provide a holistic view of the total funds awarded to the state, equivalent outlying area, Local Education Agencies (LEAs) and institutions of higher education (IHEs) by the Department.  Users can search the school districts and organizations that were awarded ESSER funds from the State Education Agencies, what institutions of higher education, school districts, and organizations received GEER funds from the governor’s office, and the institutions of higher education that were awarded HEER institutional and student emergency grant funds from the Department.
The ESF portal also links to the Certification and Agreement Statements for state’s GEER and ESSER grant awards, showing their plans to provide education services to students during school closures and implementation of return to school plans.

Coming Soon… Uses of CARES Act Funds
The ESF portal data will be updated frequently.  Early next year, the Department will expand capabilities within the portal to enable state and IHE grantees to submit annual data regarding funding authorized through the ESSER, GEER and HEER funds. This will provide the public fuller insight into how the funds are being used by the colleges, school districts and others that received funds in each state and equivalent outlying area to implement grant activities such as distance-learning, ensuring student health and safety, providing emergency support for college student’s housing and meals, and more.
This month’s initial launch of the Education Stabilization Fund Portal serves as the first step in the Department’s work to provide the public with full transparency into how CARES Act education funding was awarded and ultimately spent.  We encourage the public to visit covid-relief-data.ed.gov in the months ahead to view new data and information on how the ESF grant funds are being spent by states, equivalent outlying areas, school districts, and institutions of higher education to help our nation’s students continue to learn and thrive while grappling with the challenges presented by this unprecedented national emergency.

Keeping the Promise: Introducing New and Enhanced Features on StudentAid.gov

By: Chief Operating Officer Mark Brown, Federal Student Aid

At the U.S. Department of Education office of Federal Student Aid, we know this time of year may be different in a number of ways because of the COVID-19 emergency. Some of you may be using technology to learn and work remotely, while others have returned to campuses and workplaces for in-person instruction and essential or front-line jobs. Many of us are even rethinking how we’ll gather to celebrate Thanksgiving later this month. The COVID-19 emergency has certainly altered many aspects of our daily life.
One thing that has not changed is my promise to give you world-class service and a 21st-century experience on your federal student aid journey. The entire Federal Student Aid team and I want to make sure you know about and can access all of our trusted information, helpful resources, and easy-to-use tools. Trusted information like what’s on our website—StudentAid.gov—about the different types of financial aid, eligibility requirements, and a host of other information. Helpful resources, like state FAFSA deadlines and lots of FAFSA help topics. And easy-to-use tools that help you make decisions about your student loans if you want to start or continue your education, manage your federal student loan payments, and learn about options for loan forgiveness.
No matter where you are in your federal student aid journey, we can support you. Our information, resources, and tools are designed to help you every step of the way, whether you’re learning about, applying for, receiving, or repaying your federal student aid. In fact, this month, we’ve added an all-new, digital form to apply for borrower defense to repayment (often called, “borrower defense”), as well as enhanced two online tools, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Help Tool and Loan Simulator.
The Borrower Defense to Repayment Application is now a smart form on StudentAid.gov that will guide you through the steps to submit an application based on when and where you were enrolled in school. It will populate certain information we have in our records—like the name of your school, educational program, and any associated federal student loans—needed to complete the application.
In addition, the new application will inform you of what actions by a school—such as misrepresentation related to employment prospects or the transferability of credits—could result in your eligibility for a borrower defense discharge. The smart form asks you targeted questions based on which item(s) you select.

And, when you get to the question about whether you want to temporarily stop making payments on your loan (this is called a forbearance) while we review your borrower defense application, an interactive interest accrual calculator will pop up. We give you this tool to help you better understand the impact of postponing your payments if they’re not eligible for a borrower defense discharge. It’s important to us that you’re able to make informed decisions to remain in a current repayment status.
Once you submit your application, you can track its progress via your personal dashboard in the Status Center on StudentAid.gov. In the Status Center, you’ll also get notifications about next steps you need to take, be able to submit messages and additional documentation for your application, and have access to documents provided by your school. We designed the application to be more user-friendly and interactive, as well as streamline the process to apply and determine your eligibility for discharge.
We’re also streamlining processes for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program and Temporary Expanded PSLF (TEPSLF) opportunity. Now, you can certify your qualifying employment and apply for PSLF or TEPSLF loan forgiveness with a single application! The new, combined form is available through our enhanced PSLF Help Tool, which has a new look and feel that’s easier to navigate. When you log in to the PSLF Help Tool, you’ll be taken to the searchable employer database we added this summer. If you’ve used the tool before, you’ll see your stored employment history; we added this feature to help you better track what you’ve submitted to us and easily recertify employment.

The updated tool will also have a “My Loan Actions” feature. Once you enter all of the requested data into the tool, the “My Loan Actions” feature will provide a table with a customized breakdown of your loans and a personalized summary of your progress toward forgiveness. It’ll even include information such as the number of qualifying PSLF payments you’ve made to date.
We also updated the popular Loan Simulator by adding a “Borrow More” feature. This feature helps you determine how taking out additional federal student loans will affect your current or future monthly student loan payments. This is a great tool to use if you’re thinking about continuing a program of study or starting a new one.

Although we’re facing uncertain times, your experience with federal student aid should not be. My promise to you is to continue to give you information, resources, and tools to modernize your federal student aid experience and make it easier to successfully navigate. I invite you to check out these new features and let me know what you think!

Army Vet Continues to Serve in the Classroom

By: Timothy Lawson

On Veterans Day, we honor those who have served our nation. For many Veterans, service did not end when they took the uniform off. Those like Kendrick Lusk, who retired in 2018, took their service to the classroom. Kendrick’s father served in Vietnam and his mother worked as a schoolteacher. He followed in their footsteps.
Kendrick’s military service began in 1993 when he joined the Arkansas Army National Guard. In 1998 he was commissioned as a military police officer in the United States Army. His service includes tours in Afghanistan, Iraq, Korea, and Cuba. One of his many unique experiences was providing security for polling sites and balloting materials during the 2005 elections in Iraq. Unfortunately, during that tour, he lost a soldier and 12 others in his command were wounded.

“That year was a tough year for me but was a defining moment for the rest of my career,” Kendrick said.
When his retirement from the Army was in sight, with his mother as his inspiration, Kendrick prepared for a career in education. His mother’s first job after college was a schoolteacher. Kendrick recalls being in the grocery store with her and watching former students approach her in admiration. One of his earlier memories from childhood was going to work with his mother and watching her teach.
“Some of my biggest influences were educators: my mother, my schoolteachers, even my drill sergeants.”
Many veterans earn education benefits through their time in the service. Kendrick paid for his certification using his Post-9/11 GI Bill. As he was ready to find a job in education, W. H. Burges High School in El Paso, TX was ready to fill a position. He began teaching just a few days after retiring from the military in February 2018.
Transitioning veterans have a quality skillset that they bring with them to the next season of their lives, and Kendrick knows his time in the Army has benefited him in his new career. He credits his military service for his ability to plan, communicate and listen. The resiliency he obtained in uniform was under very different circumstances but has helped him remain flexible and patient in his current mission.

Kendrick encourages veterans who are interested in education to pursue a career in teaching. Sharing the military story with its traditions and values is best done as a veteran teaching the youth. To Kendrick, teaching after military service is one of the most important things a veteran can do.
“It’s very important for us to be an example. We have a lot of things to offer our nation. There’s still a way to give back and be part of a team. Teaching is an opportunity for that.”
Individuals interested in pursuing a career in teaching should visit www.teach.org for more information and resources.

5 Things to Do After Filing Your FAFSA® Form

Did you submit a 2021–22 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form? Wondering what happens next? Here are a few things to look out for:

1. Review Your FAFSA® Confirmation Page
After you complete the FAFSA form online and select “SUBMIT,” you’ll see a confirmation page like the one below. This is not your financial aid offer. You’ll get that separately from the school(s) you apply to and get into. Your school(s) calculate your aid.

2021-22 FAFSA Confirmation Page
The confirmation page provides federal aid estimates based on the information you provided on your FAFSA form. It’s important to know that these figures are truly estimates and assume the information you provided on the FAFSA form is correct. To calculate the actual amount of aid you’re eligible for, your school will take into account other factors, such as the cost to attend the school. Additionally, these estimates only take into account federal aid and not outside scholarships or state and institutional financial assistance you may also be eligible for.
TIP: Each school you are accepted to and include on your FAFSA form will send you a financial aid offer. Until you receive this notification, it may be difficult to know exactly how much aid you might be eligible to receive from a specific school. To get an idea of how much aid schools tend to give depending on your family’s income, visit CollegeScorecard.ed.gov and type in the school(s) you want to look up.

2. Review Your Expected Family Contribution (EFC)

Infographic: What to Expect After Submitting Your FAFSA Form

The information you report on your FAFSA form is used to calculate your EFC. It’s very important to note that the EFC is not the amount of money your family will have to pay for college. Instead, the EFC is an index number used by financial aid offices to calculate your financial need. The formula they use is:
Cost of attendance
– Expected family contribution   Your financial “need”
Each school will do its best to meet your financial need. Some schools may meet 100 percent of your financial need, and other schools may only meet 10 percent—it just depends on the school and the financial aid they have available that year. You should complete the FAFSA form annually because there are many factors that can change from year to year.
NOTE: Contrary to popular belief, the EFC formula considers more than just income. Factors such as dependency status, family size, and the number of family members who will attend college are just a few of the additional factors considered.
3. Apply for as Many Scholarships as You Can
As we mentioned previously, many schools won’t be able to meet your full financial need, so you’ll need a way to pay the difference between the financial aid your school offers and what the school costs. Scholarships are a great way to fill the gap. (Who doesn’t like free money?)
But don’t wait until after you receive your financial aid offer to start applying for scholarships. There are thousands of scholarships out there, but many have early deadlines. Set a goal for yourself; for example, maybe you aim to apply to one scholarship per week. There’s tons of free money, but you can’t get it unless you apply. Make scholarship applications your focus while you wait for your financial aid offer. The applications may take some time, but the possible pay out makes it all worth it.
If you still don’t have enough money to pay for school after financial aid and scholarships, consider these options.

4. Be on the Lookout for Your Aid Offer(s)
The 2021–22 FAFSA form was made available on Oct. 1, 2020. Even if you submit it early, that doesn’t mean you’ll get an aid offer right away. Each school has a different schedule for awarding and paying out financial aid.
Remember that your school disburses your aid, not the “FAFSA people” (Federal Student Aid). Contact your school’s financial aid office for details about when they send out aid offers. If you want to see an estimate of your school’s average annual cost, visit CollegeScorecard.ed.gov. If you want to report significant changes in your family or financial situation, contact your school’s financial aid office.
TIP: After your FAFSA form has been processed successfully, it’s a good idea to make sure the schools you listed on your FAFSA form have received everything they need. You should find out if your school requires additional applications or documentation and submit any required documentation by the appropriate deadlines.
5. Make FAFSA® Corrections if You Need To
Lastly, after your FAFSA form has been processed (which takes about three days), you can go back and submit a correction to certain fields. This includes correcting a typo or adding another school to receive your FAFSA information. Log in with your FSA ID at fafsa.gov, and then select “Make FAFSA Corrections.” You can add up to 10 schools at a time. If you’re applying to more than 10 schools, follow these steps.

NOTE: Parents of dependent students can’t initiate a FAFSA correction. Students have to begin the correction process by logging in with their FSA ID at fafsa.gov, selecting “Make FAFSA Corrections,” and creating a Save Key they can share with their parent.

Finding Our Rhythm

Teaching kindergarten is my jam. It is something that I absolutely love doing and find that it has become second nature to me. Those closest to me always joke that I love it so much because I’m a 28-year-old child at heart. I still play video games every night, I have the same taste in food as the kids in my class, and I can’t help but laugh at a cheesy joke. Student engagement has always come naturally to me – at least until mid-March of 2020 when I heard the words, “Mr. Steen, this is boring.”
I remember sitting at a makeshift workspace in my kitchen thinking, “You know what, you’re right. This is boring. How can I make virtual learning engaging and fun?” At that time, I landed on fun videos: Secret Agent Steen, Steen the Pirate, or Steen the Builder. If you can think of it, I probably did it. The students loved them, but as the year came to an end, I quickly realized I was going to need to think outside of the box if I was going to keep students engaged during live virtual sessions for an entire school year.  
Calendar time has taken a leap into the future – no more simply talking about calendar features or how to find the correct date on a calendar. If you walk past my classroom at 7:35 a.m. on any given day of the week, you’re going to hear me and 20 virtual students belting out our days of the week and color songs, or warming up with a morning dance video. Students may give the daily weather report from their home by taking their computer to the nearest window and describe what they see. You may catch us using the new Google Meets Breakout Room feature to get into small groups and discuss how we’re feeling at the start of the day.  
Our math block looks a bit different this year too. One thing that’s worked exceptionally well in a virtual setting is finding an opportunity to get students moving around in a productive way instead of just sitting behind their computer screen. Each day I allocate 5-10 minutes to build number sense and fluency through exercise. One activity that my students particularly love is subitizing with dominos and body movement. I’ll show my students a number set between 0-10 and we’ll talk about how we see the set, followed by doing that many of a given exercise. It’s simple, easy, and my kids love it. Plus, it’s a great way to get the wiggles out for both the kids and myself.  
Making virtual learning hands on whenever possible has been a top priority. A team member gave me the idea to make a tool kit for each student, and those learner toolkits have been the best investment I’ve made as a virtual teacher. These kits include a range of objects based on grade level. My toolkits include materials that I will use during whole group instruction at various points throughout the year. These are also great during school party time when you can throw in fun activities like “paint a pumpkin” or “create your own slime.”  
I challenge you to try new things. Take this as an opportunity to step outside your comfort zone, collaborate with others, and make this a year to remember.
Zachary Steen
Kindergarten Teacher
Apple Glen Elementary
Bentonville, AR

The Parent’s Guide to Filling Out the FAFSA® Form

While the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form is the student’s application, we know that parents often play a large role in the process. After all, students who are considered dependent have to provide parental information on the FAFSA form anyway and must have a parent sign it. While we recommend that the student start his or her own FAFSA form, we know that’s not always what happens. With that in mind, we wanted to provide instructions for parents who are starting the FAFSA form on behalf of their child so you can avoid running into issues completing the form.
If you are a parent completing the FAFSA form for your child, follow these 8 steps:
1. Create an account (FSA ID)
An FSA ID is a username and password you use on Federal Student Aid websites such as fafsa.gov and StudentLoans.gov. If your child is considered a dependent student, two unique FSA IDs are needed to complete the FAFSA form online:
Parent’s FSA ID
Student’s FSA ID
We recommend that you and your child register for FSA IDs ahead of time, so you don’t experience delays later in the process.
IMPORTANT: Your child must create his or her own FSA ID. You cannot create an FSA ID for your child. Also, when you register, you’ll be asked to provide an email address and mobile phone number. This is optional but highly recommended. These two items must be unique to each account. In other words, your email address and mobile phone number cannot be associated with more than one FSA ID.
You and your child should create your FSA IDs now at StudentAid.gov/fsa-id/create-account/launch.

Your FSA ID serves as your legal electronic signature throughout the federal student aid process. Do not share your FSA ID with anyone, not even your child. Your child should also not share his or her FSA ID with you. Keep your FSA ID information in a safe place. You’ll need it to renew your FAFSA form each year and to access federal student aid information online.
2. Start the FAFSA® form at fafsa.gov
Go to fafsa.gov and click “Start Here” under the “New to FAFSA.gov?” heading.
Once on the log-in page, you will see two options. If you are starting the FAFSA form on behalf of your child, choose the option on the right, “I am a parent, preparer, or student from a Freely Associated State.”

Enter your child’s name, Social Security number, and date of birth. Then, click next.
Choose which FAFSA form you’d like to complete.2020–21 FAFSA formif your child will be attending college between July 1, 2020, and June 30, 2021.2021–22 FAFSA form if your child will be attending college between July 1, 2021, and June 30, 2022.
Both:If your child will be attending college during both time periods and hasn’t completed the 2020–21 FAFSA form yet, complete that first, wait until it processes (one to three days), then go back in and complete the 2021–22 FAFSA form after.
Were you given the option to submit a FAFSA® Renewal?
If your child is present, you should choose this option. If you do, a lot of the demographic information required will be pre-populated. Your child must be present because he or she will need to enter the student’s FSA ID to continue. If your child is not present, you should select “Start NEW FAFSA.”

Create a save key. A save key is a temporary password that allows you and your child to “pass” the FAFSA form back and forth. It also allows you to save your child’s FAFSA form and return to it later. Once you create a save key, share it with your child. He or she will need it to complete later steps.

IMPORTANT TIPS— The FAFSA® form is the student’s application, not yours.
When the FAFSA form says “you” or “your,” it’s referring to the student (unless otherwise noted).— Avoid simultaneous logins.
Your child should not be filling out their FAFSA online at the same time you are. Your progress can be lost if they click “Save” at a different point in the application.— If you need help:
Click on the blue question mark symbol at the corner of each question.

3. Fill out the Student Demographics section
After the introduction page, you will proceed to enter basic demographic information about your child, such as name, date of birth, etc. If you chose the FAFSA renewal option in step two, a lot of his or her personal information will be pre-populated to save you time. Make sure you enter your child’s personal information exactly as it appears on his or her Social Security card so you don’t encounter any errors. (That’s right, no nicknames.)
4. List the schools to which you want your FAFSA® information sent
In the School Selection section, you’ll add all the schools you want to receive your child’s information. It is important that you add every school your child is considering, even if he or she hasn’t applied or been accepted yet. It doesn’t hurt to add more schools; colleges can’t see the other schools that have been added. In fact, you don’t even have to remove schools if your child later decides not to apply or attend. If your child doesn’t end up applying or getting accepted to a school, the school can just disregard his or her FAFSA form. You can remove schools at any time to make room for new schools. You can add up to 10 schools at a time. If your child is applying to more than 10 schools, here’s what you should do.
5. Answer the dependency status questions
In this section, you’ll be asked a series of specific questions to determine whether or not your child is required to provide your (parent) information on the FAFSA form.
These dependency guidelines are set by Congress and are different from those used by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
Even if your child doesn’t live with you, supports him or herself, and files taxes separately from you, he or she may still be considered a dependent student for federal student aid purposes.
If your child is determined to be a dependent student, he or she will be required to report information about you. If your child is determined to be an independent student, you can skip the questions about providing parent information (unless otherwise noted by the school).
6. Fill out the Parent Demographics section
This is where you’ll provide your own demographic information. Are you divorced? Remarried? Below is a guide to determining which parent’s information needs to be included on your child’s FAFSA form. For specific guidance, review our “Reporting Parent Information” page.

Infographic: Who’s my Parent when I Fill Out myFAFSA?

7. Supply your financial information
This step is incredibly simple if you use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT). The IRS DRT allows you to import your IRS tax information into the FAFSA form with just a few clicks. Using this tool also may reduce the amount of paperwork you need to provide to your child’s school. So if you’re eligible, use it!
To access the tool, indicate that you’ve “already completed” taxes on the parent finances page. If you’re eligible, you’ll see an option to “Link to IRS.”

Next, you’ll likely be asked to provide your child’s financial information.
If your child filed taxes, the easiest way to complete this section is to use the IRS DRT. Your child would need to be present because he or she needs to provide his or her FSA ID to use the tool. If your child is not present, save and exit the application and instruct your child to log in with his or her FSA ID, retrieve the FAFSA form using the save key, and then use the IRS DRT to complete the FAFSA form and sign it.
If your child did not file taxes, you can enter his or her financial information manually (if you have access to the required information). If you don’t have access to the information, save and exit the application and instruct your child to log in with his or her FSA ID, retrieve the FAFSA form using the save key, complete the FAFSA form, and sign it.
NOTE: If you need to save and exit your child’s FAFSA form so he or she can complete the remaining information, you’ll need to log back in and sign your child’s FAFSA form before your child can submit it.
8. Sign your child’s FAFSA® form
Both you and your child need to sign the FAFSA form. The quickest and easiest way to sign your child’s FAFSA form is online with your FSA ID.
If your child is not present, here’s what you do:
Sign your child’s FAFSA form with your FSA ID first.
Save and exit the application.
Instruct your child to log in using their FSA ID and sign the FAFSA form.
Sign and Submit Tips:
If you or your child forgot your FSA ID, you can retrieve it
Make sure you and your child don’t mix up your FSA IDs. This is one of the most common errors we see, and why it’s extremely important for each person to create his/her own FSA ID and not share it with anyone.
Make sure the parent who is using his/her FSA ID to sign the FAFSA form chooses the right parent number. If you don’t remember whether you were listed as Parent 1 or Parent 2, you can go back to the parent demographics section to check.

If you get an error saying that your FSA ID information doesn’t match the information provided on the FAFSA form, here’s what you should do. Note: This is often the result of mixing up the student and parent FSA ID.
We recommend signing the FAFSA form with an FSA ID because it’s the fastest way to get your child’s FAFSA form processed. However, if you and/or your child are unable to sign the FAFSA form electronically with an FSA ID, you can mail in a signature page. From the sign and submit page, select “Other options to sign and submit” and then choose “Print A Signature Page.” Just keep in mind that your child’s FAFSA form will take longer to process if you go this route.
If you have multiple children who need to complete the FAFSA form, you can use the same FSA ID to sign FAFSA forms for all of your children. You can also transfer your information into your other children’s applications by choosing the option provided on the FAFSA confirmation page.

Congrats you’re finished!
Your child is one step closer to getting money for college. With the hard part over, learn what your child should do next after submitting the FAFSA form.

11 Common FAFSA® Mistakes

The 2021–22 FAFSA® will be available October 1! If you plan to attend college between July 1, 2021, and June 30, 2022, you should fill out your FAFSA form as soon as possible!

Just make sure you don’t make one of these common mistakes:
1. Not Completing the FAFSA Form
We hear all kinds of reasons: “The FAFSA form is too hard.” “It takes too long to complete.” “I’ll never qualify anyway, so why does it matter?” It does matter. For one, contrary to popular belief, there is no income “cut-off” when it comes to federal student aid. Also, the FAFSA form is not just the application for “free money” such as the Federal Pell Grant, it’s also the application for Federal Work-Study funds, federal student loans, and even scholarships and grants offered by your state, school, or private organization. If you don’t complete the FAFSA form, you could lose out on thousands of dollars to help you pay for college. It doesn’t take too much time to complete, and there is help text provided for every question.
2. Not Filling Out the FAFSA Form as Soon as It’s Available
If you want to get the most financial aid possible, fill out the FAFSA form ASAP. Some financial aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, and some states and colleges run out of money early.  Even if it seems like your school’s deadline is far off in the future, get your FAFSA form done ASAP. The 2021–22 FAFSA form requires 2019 tax information, which you should already have—so there’s no excuse to wait!
3. Not Filing the FAFSA Form by the Deadline
You should fill out the FAFSA form as soon as possible, but you should DEFINITELY fill it out before your earliest FAFSA deadline. Each state and school sets its own deadline, and some deadlines are very early. To be sure you are being considered for the maximum amount of financial aid, fill out your FAFSA form—and any other financial aid applications required by your state or school—before the earliest deadline.

4. Not Getting an FSA ID Before Filling Out the FAFSA Form
It’s important to get an FSA ID before filling out the FAFSA form. Why? When you register for an FSA ID, you may need to wait up to three days before you can use it to sign your FAFSA form electronically. An FSA ID is a username and password that you use to log in to certain U.S. Department of Education websites, including fafsa.gov. You AND your parent (if you’re considered a dependent student) will each need your own, separate FSA IDs if you both want to sign your FAFSA form online. DO NOT share your FSA IDs with each other! Doing so could cause problems or delays with your financial aid. Don’t wait! Create an FSA ID now: StudentAid.gov/fsaid.

5. Not Using Your FSA ID to Start the FAFSA Form
When you begin your FAFSA form, you will be asked to identify yourself as one of these:
I am the student
I am a parent, preparer, or student from a Freely Associated State
If you’re the student, you should choose the first option. Why? When you do, some of your personal information (name, Social Security number, date of birth, etc.) will be automatically loaded into your application.  This will prevent you from running into a common error that occurs when your verified FSA ID information doesn’t match the information on your FAFSA form. Also, you won’t have to enter your FSA ID again to transfer your information from the IRS or to sign your FAFSA form electronically.

6. Not Using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (IRS DRT)
For many applicants, the most difficult part about filling out the FAFSA form is entering the financial information. But thanks to a partnership with the IRS, students and parents who are eligible can automatically transfer their necessary 2019 tax information into the 2021–22 FAFSA form using the IRS DRT. It’s the fastest, most accurate way to enter your tax return information into the FAFSA form, so if you’re given the option to “LINK TO IRS” button, take advantage of it!

7. Not Reading Definitions Carefully
When it comes to completing the FAFSA form, you’ll want to read each definition and each question carefully; sometimes the FAFSA form is looking for very specific information that may not be obvious.
Here are some items that have very specific (but not necessarily intuitive) definitions according to the FAFSA form:
Legal guardianship
To determine your dependency status, the FAFSA form asks, “Does someone other than your parent or stepparent have legal guardianship of you, as determined by a court in your state of legal residence?” Many students incorrectly answer “yes” here. For this question, the definition of legal guardianship does not include your parents—even if they were appointed by a court to be your guardians. Also, you cannot be your own legal guardian.
ParentsThe FAFSA form has very specific guidelines about which parent’s information needs to be reported. Spoiler alert: It has nothing to do with who claims you on their taxes. On the FAFSA form you may be asked, “As of today, what is the marital status of your parents?” Use this guide to help you figure out which parent to report on the FAFSA form.

Number of family members (household size)
The FAFSA form has a specific definition of how your household size or your parents’ household size should be determined. Read the instructions carefully. Many students incorrectly report this number, especially when the student doesn’t physically live with the parent.
Number of family members in college
Enter the number of people in your (or your parents’) household who will attend college at the same time as you. Don’t forget to include yourself, but don’t include your parents in this number, even if they’re in college. This number should never be greater than your number of family members.
Net worth of investmentsWe’ve outlined some specific items that should and shouldn’t be included as investments on the FAFSA form. For example, a college savings plan such as a 529 account is considered an investment*, while the value of the home in which you live and the value of your retirement accounts are not. We highly recommend that you read this to make sure you are reporting this information correctly.
Taxable college grants and scholarships
For this question, you report only college grant and scholarship amounts that were reported to the IRS as income. That means you should not use the amount listed on your 1098-T; you should report the amount listed on your tax return. Do not use the number in the adjusted gross income (AGI) field. Here are the tax line numbers you should reference when asked this question. If you didn’t file taxes, you should enter zero.
* If you’re a dependent student, the value of any college savings accounts should be reported as a parent asset, not a student asset.
8. Inputting Incorrect Information
Here are some examples of common errors we see when people complete the FAFSA form:
Confusing parent information with student informationWe know there are many parents out there who fill out the FAFSA form for their children, but remember, it is the student’s application. When the FAFSA form says “you” or “your,” it’s referring to the student, so make sure to enter your (the student’s) information. If the form is asking for your parent’s information, it will specify that in the question.
Entering information that doesn’t match your FSA ID informationAfter you create an FSA ID, your information (name, Social Security number (SSN), date of birth) is sent to the Social Security Administration to be verified. If you then enter a different name, SSN, and/or date of birth on the FAFSA form, you’ll receive an error message. This is often the result of a typo or mixing up student information and parent information. To avoid delays, triple-check that you have entered your information correctly. If you encounter an error about information not matching, here’s how you can resolve it.
Amount of your income taxThe FAFSA form is asking for your assessed income tax liability, not the amount of income tax withheld and not your AGI. We know this can be complicated. To avoid this common error, either transfer your tax information to the FAFSA form using the IRS DRT, or click here to find out which tax line number you should refer to when answering this question. (Note: It depends on which IRS form you filed.)
9. Not Reporting Required Information
Parent informationEven if you fully support yourself, pay your own bills, and file your own taxes, you may still be considered a dependent student for federal student aid purposes. If so, you must provide parent information on your FAFSA form. Dependency guidelines for the FAFSA form are determined by Congress and are different from those of the IRS. Find out whether you need to provide parent information by answering these questions. If you’re considered a dependent student and don’t provide parent information, your FAFSA form may not be processed and/or you may qualify for unsubsidized loans only.
Additional financial informationIf you follow our recommendation and use the IRS DRT, a lot of the financial information required on the FAFSA form will be automatically filled in for you. However, the IRS DRT doesn’t populate everything; some numbers, including many items in the “Additional Financial Information” section, must be manually entered. If you used the IRS DRT, you’ll see that some boxes in that section are pre-checked and the fields pre-filled with “Transferred from the IRS.” However, other items, such as “Payments to tax-deferred pension and retirement savings plans” and others, cannot be transferred from the IRS. You must manually review each item in the list, check the box if it applies to you, and enter the appropriate amount by referencing your relevant financial records. In the case of payments to tax-deferred pension and retirement savings plans, you can find that information on your W-2 form.

10. Listing only one college
Unless you are applying to only one college or already know where you’re going to school, you should include more than one. Colleges can’t see the other schools you’ve added, so you should add ALL colleges you are considering to your FAFSA form, even if you aren’t sure whether you’ll apply or be accepted. You can add up to 10 schools at a time. If you’re applying to more than 10 schools, follow these steps.
It doesn’t hurt your application to add more schools. In fact, you don’t even have to remove schools you later decide not to apply to. If you don’t end up applying or getting accepted to a school, the school can just disregard your FAFSA form. But you can remove schools at any time to make room for new schools.
NOTE:  If you’re a resident of certain states, the order in which you list the schools on your FAFSA form might matter. Find out whether your state has a requirement for the order in which you list schools on your FAFSA form.
11. Not Signing the FAFSA Form
So many students answer every single question that is asked but fail to actually sign the FAFSA form with their FSA ID and submit it. This happens for many reasons—maybe you forgot your FSA ID, or your parent isn’t with you to sign with the parent FSA ID—so your application is left incomplete. Don’t let this happen to you.
If you don’t know your FSA ID, select “Forgot username” and/or “Forgot password.”
If you don’t have an FSA ID, create one.
If you’re not able to sign with your FSA ID, there’s an option to mail a signature page. If you would like confirmation that your FAFSA form has been submitted, you can check your status immediately after you submit your FAFSA form online.

How to Fill Out the FAFSA® Form When You Have More Than One Child in College

Having one child who is heading to college can be stressful but having to help multiple children at the same time can feel overwhelming. Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions about filling out the FAFSA form when you have more than one child in college:
How many FSA IDs will my children and I need?
An FSA ID is a username and password combination that serves as your legal electronic signature throughout the financial aid process. You AND each of your children will need your own FSA ID.
Note: Your FSA ID is associated with your Social Security number and is equivalent to your legal signature; therefore, each person can only have one FSA ID. If you are a parent, you will use the same FSA ID to sign each one of your children’s FAFSA forms.

How many FAFSA® forms do we have to complete?
Each of your children will need to fill out a FAFSA form. Your children will need to provide your (parent) information on their 2021–22 FAFSA forms unless they are going to graduate school, were born before Jan. 1, 1998, or can answer “yes” to any of these dependency status questions.
Example: You have three children who are going to go to college or who are in college. You’ll need four FSA IDs—one for you as the parent (only one parent needs an FSA ID) and one for each child. You’ll need to fill out three FAFSA forms, one for each child.

Can I transfer my information from one child’s FAFSA® form to another so I don’t have to reenter it?
Yes! Once your first child’s FAFSA form is complete, you’ll get to a confirmation page. At the bottom of the confirmation page, you’ll see an option that asks, “Does your brother or sister need to complete a FAFSA?” Make sure you have your pop-up blocker turned off and select the arrow at the right.

Note: This transfer option is available on fafsa.gov but it is NOT currently available on the myStudentAid app.
TIP: If you want the process to go as smoothly as possible, your second child should have his or her FSA ID handy so you’re ready for the next step.

Once you select the arrow, a new window will open, allowing your other child to start his or her FAFSA form. We recommend that your child starts the FAFSA form by entering his or her FSA ID (not your FSA ID) using the option on the left (I am the student) in the image below. However, if you are starting your child’s FAFSA form, choose the option on the right (I am a parent, preparer, or student from a Freely Associated State) and enter your child’s information.

Note:  Regardless of who starts the application from this screen, the FAFSA form remains the student’s application; so, when the FAFSA form says “you,” it means the student. If the FAFSA form is asking for parent information, it will specify that. When in doubt, refer to the ribbon at the top left of the screen. It will indicate whether you’re being asked to provide student or parent information.
After you select the FAFSA form you’d like to complete and create a save key, you’ll be brought to the introduction page, which will indicate that parental data was copied into your second child’s FAFSA form.
Once you reach the parent information page, you will see your information prepopulated. Verify this info, proceed to sign and submit the FAFSA form, and you’re done!
I have education savings accounts (529 plan, etc.) for my children. How do I report those on the FAFSA® form?
You report the value of all education savings accounts owned by you, your child, or any other dependent children in your household as a parent investment. (Read “What is the net worth of your parents’ investments?” for more information.) If you have education savings accounts for multiple children, you must report the combined current value of those accounts, even if some of those children are not in college yet or are not completing a FAFSA form.
Example: Child 1 and 2 are filling out the FAFSA form. Child 3 is in 8th grade. They each have 529 college savings plan accounts in their names.
Child 1 account balance: $20,000
Child 2 account balance: $13,000
Child 3 account balance: $8,000
You would add $41,000 to any other parent investments you’re required to report and input it when asked, “What is the net worth of your parents’ investments?” on each of your children’s FAFSA forms.
How does having more than one child in college impact the amount of financial aid my children qualify for?
Having multiple children enrolled in college at the same time could have an impact on your children’s eligibility for need-based federal financial aid.
TIP: We often hear about families who choose not to fill out the FAFSA form again because they believe that they won’t qualify for grants or scholarships, especially if they did not qualify the previous year. This is a huge mistake, especially if you will have additional children entering college. Read on to learn why.
Schools use the following formula to determine a student’s eligibility for need-based financial aid:
Cost of attendance (COA) – Expected Family Contribution (EFC) = financial need
Let’s break down this formula:
Cost of attendance: This will vary by school, so if you have two children attending different schools with different costs, their financial need may be different, even if their EFC is the same.
Expected Family Contribution: The information you provide on the FAFSA form is used to calculate your child’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The EFC is a combination of how much a parent and student are expected to contribute toward the student’s cost to attend college. The EFC is not necessarily the amount of money your family will have to pay for college, nor is it the amount of federal student aid you will receive. It is a number used by your child’s school to calculate how much financial aid he or she is eligible to receive. Since we recognize that as a parent, your annual ability to pay per child decreases as you have more children enroll in college, we divide the expected parent contribution portion by the number of children you expect to have in college.
Example: Let’s assume that all your dependent children have identical financial information and that the calculated EFC assuming one child in college would be $10,000. Here’s how each child’s EFC would change depending on the number of family members attending college full-time.

Financial need: Please note that schools differ (sometimes greatly) in their ability to meet each student’s financial need. To compare average school costs, visit the CollegeScorecard.