By: Federal Student Aid As students and families prepare for education beyond high school, cost is a critical consideration. At Federal Student Aid, we know students and families often have to make tough decisions about higher education, and we know the COVID-19 emergency has made some of those decisions even harder. In typical times, submitting … Read more
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.
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!
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
On Aug. 8, 2020, President Trump extended the 0% student loan interest rate and suspension of payments on federal student loans owned by the Department of Education (ED) until Dec. 31, 2020. These relief measures began March 13, 2020.
If you’re considering or already participating in Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) or Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness (TEPSLF), you may have questions about how this suspension of payments or other Coronavirus-related changes will impact your progress.
Before we look at those impacts, here’s a checklist of basic tips for PSLF.
1. Suspended Monthly Payments
have Direct Loans that are not in default, and
work full-time for a qualifying employer during the extension of the suspension of payment period,
suspended monthly payments will count toward Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) as if you continued to make regular monthly payments. You can think of them as $0 payments. You’ll need to submit an Employment Certification Form to receive credit for your employment during the suspension of payments. Borrowers with in-grace, in-school, and certain deferment, forbearance, and bankruptcy statuses are not eligible for credit toward PSLF. The Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students (HEROES) Act of 2003 provides authority for this action.
Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness (TEPSLF)
Similarly, you will receive payment credit during the suspension of payments as if you had made real payments—as long as all other TEPSLF qualifications are met. This includes ensuring that both the amount you paid 12 months prior to applying for TEPSLF and the last payment you made before applying for TEPSLF were at least as much as you would have paid under an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan. To confirm your required monthly payment for TEPSLF, contact FedLoan Servicing.
If you made a payment between March 13, 2020, and the end of the payment suspension period, and would like a refund, the payment still counts toward PSLF as long as all other PSLF qualifications are met.
Applying for PSLF
If you reach your 120 qualifying payments during the payment suspension period, you can still apply for and receive PSLF at this time. However, you must be working for a qualifying employer at the time you submit the PSLF application and at the time the remaining balance on your loan is forgiven. If you are eligible for forgiveness, the amount forgiven will be the principal and interest that was due after you made your 120 qualifying payments.
2. Reduced Work Hours Could Impact Your Eligibility
You must continue to work full-time (30 hours or more per week) for a qualifying employer to have the suspended payments count toward PSLF. You can meet the full-time requirement by being employed part-time for multiple employers, but they must all be qualifying employers.
If you no longer work full-time for a qualifying employer, the suspended payments from the time you went below 30 hours per week or lost your employment (or were laid off or furloughed) will not count toward PSLF. You don’t lose your eligibility for PSLF entirely. If you later meet the qualifying employer and full-time status requirements, payments you make at that point will count toward PSLF and can be added to the count of qualifying payments you had when you originally went below 30 hours per week or lost your employment with a qualifying employer.
3. Additional Payments Will Reduce Your Amount Forgiven
In most cases, it’s a good financial strategy to make additional payments, if you can, during the 0% interest period. If you are seeking PSLF, however, additional payments may not be in your best interest.
If you make payments during the period of suspended payments, they won’t make you eligible for PSLF sooner. The suspended $0 payments already qualify toward your required 120 PSLF payments, so not making additional payments maximizes the amount to be forgiven.
4. Receiving Credit During the Payment Suspension
As a reminder, the best way to confirm you are meeting PSLF requirements is to submit your Employment Certification Form (ECF). Use the PSLF Help Tool to generate a prefilled ECF. Print it, sign it, have your employer sign it, and submit it to FedLoan Servicing. Keep these signature requirements below in mind before submitting your ECF.
Note: When you visit the FedLoan Servicing website, the timeline for reaching the number of qualifying payments for PSLF may appear to have been extended. This is only temporary. Your estimated eligibility date for forgiveness will be corrected.
5. Mark Your Calendar for Your IDR Plan Recertification Deadline
It’s important to recertify on time, so that you remain on your IDR plan. If you aren’t on an IDR plan, payments you make after the payment suspension period ends won’t count toward PSLF. If your repayment plan recertification fell between March 13, 2020 to Sept. 30, 2020, your recertification date has now been pushed out six months from your original recertification date. Consider the following example:
If your recertification date is May 12, 2020, your new recertification date will be Nov. 12, 2020.
Your loan servicer will notify you when it is time to recertify your plan. Wrong contact info means you’ll be missing important updates about your federal student loans. Log in now to confirm your info is correct. Be on the lookout for this email or letter to ensure you don’t miss your IDR recertification deadline.
6. Remember to Avoid PSLF Scams!
There is no fee for the suspension of payments and other federal student loan benefits—not from the federal government and not from your loan servicer. If someone asks for money to suspend payments on your loans or help you apply for PSLF (for example), it’s a scam. Learn more about avoiding student aid scams.
If you’re looking for more general tips on how to apply for PSLF successfully, check out Applying for Public Service Loan Forgiveness: 5 Tips for Success or watch the video below.
This article was written by Miranda H., a Digital Engagement Strategist at the U.S. Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid.
Disclaimer: This article contains general statements of policy under the Administrative Procedure Act issued to advise the public on how ED and Federal Student Aid (FSA) propose to exercise their discretion as a result of and in response to the lawfully and duly declared COVID-19. ED and FSA do not intend for this article to create legally binding standards to determine any member of the public’s legal rights and obligations for which noncompliance may form an independent basis for action
If you need financial aid to help you pay for college, you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form. The 2021–22 FAFSA form will be available on Oct. 1, 2020. You should fill it out as soon as possible on or after Oct. 1 at the official government site, fafsa.gov.
It’ll be easier to complete the FAFSA form if you gather what you need ahead of time. Below is what you’ll need to fill it out.
1. Your FSA ID*
An FSA ID is a username and password that you can use to log in to certain U.S. Department of Education (ED) websites. Each student, and one parent of each dependent student, will need an FSA ID to complete the FAFSA process on fafsa.gov. We recommend creating your FSA ID early—even before you’re ready to complete the FAFSA form—to avoid delays in the process.
For step-by-step instructions, watch How to Create Your FSA ID.
IMPORTANT: Do NOT create an FSA ID on behalf of someone else. That means parents should not create FSA IDs for their children and vice versa. Doing so may result in issues signing and submitting the FAFSA form and could lead to financial aid delays. (Also, it’s against the rules to create an FSA ID for someone else.)
Anyone who plans to fill out the 2021–22 FAFSA form should create an FSA ID as soon as possible.
If you are required to provide parent information on your FAFSA form, your parent should create an FSA ID too.
Because your FSA ID is equivalent to your signature, parents and students each need to create their own FSA IDs using their own email address and phone number. Parents should not create an FSA ID for their child and vice versa.
In some situations, you may need to wait up to three days to use your FSA ID after creating it. If you want to avoid FAFSA delays, create your FSA ID now
2. Your Social Security number*
You can find the number on your Social Security card. If you don’t have access to it, and don’t know where it is, ask your parent or legal guardian or get a new or replacement Social Security card from the Social Security Administration. If you are not a U.S. citizen, but meet Federal Student Aid’s basic eligibility requirements, you’ll also need your Alien Registration number.
3. Your driver’s license number
If you don’t have a driver’s license, then don’t worry about this step.
4. Your 2019 tax records*
In case you didn’t hear about the changes we made to the FAFSA process, beginning with the 2017–18 FAFSA form, we now require you to report income information from an earlier tax year.
On the 2021–22 FAFSA form, you (and your parents, as appropriate) will report your 2019 income information, rather than your 2018 income information.
Since you’ll probably already have filed your 2019 taxes by the time the FAFSA form launches, you’ll be able to import your tax information into the FAFSA form right away using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT). (No more logging back in to update after filing taxes!)
Not everyone is eligible to use the IRS DRT; and the IRS DRT does not input all the financial information required on the FAFSA form. Therefore, you should have your 2019 tax return and 2019 IRS W-2 available for reference.
The IRS DRT is the fastest, most accurate way to input your tax return information into the FAFSA form. To address security and privacy concerns related to the IRS DRT, the tax return information you transfer from the IRS will not be displayed on fafsa.gov or the IRS DRT web page. Instead, you’ll see “Transferred from the IRS” in the appropriate fields on fafsa.gov.
You cannot use your 2020 tax information. We understand that for some families, 2019 income doesn’t accurately reflect your current financial situation. If you have experienced a reduction in income since the 2019 tax year, you should complete the FAFSA form with the info it asks for (2019), and then contact each of the schools to which you’re applying to explain and document the change in income. They have the ability to assess your situation and make adjustments to your FAFSA form if warranted.
You cannot update your 2021–22 FAFSA form with your 2020 tax information after filing 2020 taxes. 2019 information is what’s required. No updates necessary; no updates allowed.
5. Records of your untaxed income*
The FAFSA questions about untaxed income may or may not apply to you; they include things like child support received, interest income, and veterans noneducation benefits. On the 2021–22 FAFSA form, you’ll report 2019 tax or calendar year information when asked these questions.
6. Records of your assets (money)*
This section includes savings and checking account balances, as well as the value of investments such as stocks and bonds and real estate (but not the home in which your family lives). You should report the current amounts as of the date you sign the FAFSA form, rather than reporting the 2019 tax year amounts.
Note: Misreporting the value of investments is a common FAFSA mistake. Please carefully review what is and is not considered a student investment and parent investment to make sure you don’t over- or under-report. You may be surprised by what can (and cannot) be excluded.
7. List of the school(s) you are interested in attending
Be sure to add any college you’re considering, even if you haven’t applied or been accepted yet.
Even if there is only a slight chance you’ll apply to a college, list the school on your FAFSA form. You can always remove schools later if you decide not to apply, but if you wait to add a school, you could miss out on first-come, first-served financial aid.
The schools you list on your FAFSA form will automatically receive your FAFSA results electronically. They will use your FAFSA information to determine the types and amounts of financial aid you may receive.
If you add a school to your FAFSA form and later decide not to apply for admission to that school, that’s OK! The school likely won’t offer you aid until you’ve been accepted anyway.
You can list up to 10 schools at a time on your FAFSA form. If you’re applying to more than 10 schools, here’s what you should do.
TIP: To be considered for state aid, several states require you to list schools in a particular order (for instance, you might need to list a state school first). Find out whether your state has a requirement for the order in which you list schools on your FAFSA form.
* If you’re a dependent student, you will need this information for your parents as well.
Ready to start?
Once you’re ready, you have several ways to complete the FAFSA form, including the fafsa.gov website or the new myStudentAid mobile app. Using the app, you can fill out the FAFSA form safely and securely from your mobile device. On the app, you can also manage your FSA ID, view your federal student aid history and loan information, and more. The myStudentAid app is available from both the Apple App Store (iOS) and Google Play (Android).
If you are the parent read, The Parent’s Guide to Filling Out the FAFSA Form. We also have a resource if you are a parent with more than one child going to college. Ready to fill out the FAFSA form? Make sure you avoid these 11 common FAFSA mistakes.
1. Create an account (FSA ID)
Student: An FSA ID is a username and password you need to sign the FAFSA form online. If you don’t have an FSA ID, get an FSA ID here ASAP. It takes about 10 minutes to create an FSA ID. If this will be your first time filling out the FAFSA form, you’ll be able to use your FSA ID right away to sign and submit your FAFSA form online. If this is not your first time filling out the FAFSA form, you may need to wait one to three days for us to verify your info before you can use your FSA ID to renew your FAFSA form and sign it online.
Parent: If your child is required to report parent information on the FAFSA form, you need to create your own FSA ID in order to sign your child’s FAFSA form online. Create an FSA ID here. Parents are able to use their FSA IDs right away.
Some of the most common FAFSA errors occur when the student and parent mix up their FSA IDs. If you don’t want your financial aid to be delayed, it’s extremely important that each parent and each student create his or her own FSA ID and that they do not share it with ANYONE, not even with each other.
2. Start the FAFSA® form at fafsa.gov
The 2021–22 FAFSA form launched October 1! Even if your state and school deadlines aren’t for a while, you should complete the FAFSA form as soon as possible because some states and schools run out of financial aid early and have limited funds. Don’t wait until the last minute to apply!
TIP: If you are the parent read, The Parent’s Guide to Filling Out the FAFSA Form.
If you are the student: Click “I am the student.” Enter your FSA ID username and password, and click “Next.”
If you are the parent: Click “I am a parent, preparer, or student from a Freely Associated State.” Provide the student’s name, Social Security number, and date of birth, and click “Next.”
Choose which FAFSA form you’d like to complete:
2021–22 FAFSA form if you will be attending college between July 1, 2021, and June 30, 2022.
2020–21 FAFSA form if you will be attending college between July 1, 2020, and June 30, 2021.
Both: If you will be attending college during both time periods and haven’t completed your 2020–21 FAFSA form yet, complete that first, wait one to three days until it processes, then go back in and complete the 2021–22 FAFSA form.
TIP: If you are given the option to complete a “renewal” FAFSA form, choose that option. When you choose to renew your FAFSA form, your demographic information from the previous year will roll over into your new application, saving you some time.
Remember, the FAFSA form is not a onetime thing. You must complete a FAFSA form for each school year.
Create a save key
Unlike the FSA ID, the save key is meant to be shared. A save key is a temporary password that allows you and your parent(s) to “pass” the FAFSA form back and forth. It also allows you to save the FAFSA form and return to it later. This is especially helpful if you and your parent are not in the same place.
Watch the “FAFSA and FSA ID Tips for Parents” video
3. Fill out the Student Demographics section
This is information such as your name, date of birth, etc. If you have completed the FAFSA form in the past or if you log into the FAFSA form with your FSA ID, a lot of your personal information will be prepopulated to save you time. Make sure you enter your personal information exactly as it appears on your Social Security card. (That’s right, no nicknames.)
Parents:Remember that 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). Pay attention to whether you’re being asked for student or parent information.
4. List the schools to which you want your FAFSA® information sent
In the School Selection section, add every school you’re considering, even if you haven’t applied or been accepted yet. It doesn’t hurt your application to add more schools; colleges can’t see the other schools you’ve added. In fact, you don’t even have to remove schools if you later decide not to apply or attend. 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. You can add up to 10 schools at a time. If you’re applying to more than 10 schools, here’s what you should do.
5. Answer the dependency status questions
In the dependency status section, you’ll be asked a series of specific questions to determine whether you are required to provide parent information on the FAFSA form.
The dependency guidelines are set by Congress and are different from those used by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Even if you live on your own, support yourself, and file taxes on your own, you may still be considered a dependent student for federal student aid purposes. If you are determined to be a dependent student, you’ll be required to report information about your parent(s). If you’re determined to be an independent student, you won’t have to provide parent information and you can skip the next step.
6. Fill out the Parent Demographics section
This is where your parent(s) will provide basic demographic information. Remember that it doesn’t matter if you don’t live with your parent(s); you still must report information about them if you were determined to be a dependent student in the step above.
Start by figuring out who counts as your parent on the FAFSA form.
Read specific guidance about reporting your parents’ information as a dependent student.
What to do if you are not able to provide parent info due to special circumstances.
7. Supply your financial information
Here is where you and your parent(s) (if applicable) will provide 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 school. So if you’re eligible, use it!
To access the tool, indicate that you’ve “already completed” taxes on the student or parent finances page. If you’re eligible, you’ll see a “LINK TO IRS” button. Choose that option and follow the prompts.
8. Sign and submit your FAFSA form
You’re not finished with the FAFSA form until you (and your parent, if you’re a dependent student) sign it. The quickest and easiest way to sign your FAFSA form is online with your FSA ID.
Note: If you (the student) logged in to the FAFSA form with your FSA ID at the beginning, you won’t need to provide it again on this page. But, if you’re a dependent student, your parent will still need to sign before you can completely submit.
Sign and Submit Tips:
If you or your parent forgot your FSA ID username or password, you can retrieve it.
Make sure you and your parent 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 or her own FSA ID and not share it with anyone.
Make sure the parent who is using his or her FSA ID to sign the FAFSA form chooses the right parent number from the drop-down menu. If your parent doesn’t remember whether he or she was listed as Parent 1 or Parent 2, he or she can go back to the parent demographics section to check.
Here’s what you should do if you get an error saying that your FSA ID information doesn’t match the information provided on the FAFSA form.
If you have siblings, your parent can use the same FSA ID to sign FAFSA forms for all of his or her children. Your parent can also transfer his or her information into your sibling’s application by choosing the option provided on the FAFSA confirmation page.
We recommend signing the FAFSA form with an FSA ID because it’s the fastest way to get your FAFSA form processed. However, if you and/or your parent 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 FAFSA form will take longer to process if you go this route.
I’m finished. What’s next?
Congrats on finishing! You’re one step closer to getting money for college. With the hard part over, check out this page to learn what you should do next.