7 Things You Need Before You Fill Out the FAFSA

If you need financial aid to help you pay for college, it’s important that you complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The good news? The FAFSA is simpler than ever! Did you know that, on average, it only takes 23 minutes complete? That equates to roughly one episode of your favorite TV program, so no excuses about not having the time. Record that TV show and watch it later.


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The 2014­­–15 FAFSA becomes available on January 1, 2014, at 12 a.m. Central Time. You can fill it out for FREE on the official government site, www.fafsa.gov. To speed up the FAFSA process, get prepared early. Here is what you’ll need to fill out the FAFSA:

  1. Your Federal Student Aid PIN* — In order to sign your FAFSA electronically, you’ll need a Federal Student Aid PIN. You can help to prevent processing delays by getting a PIN before you begin the FAFSA. Find out how to get a PIN and what to do if you forgot your PIN. It only takes a minute.
  2. Your social security number* — If you don’t know it, it can be found on your social security card. If you don’t have access to that, it may be on your birth certificate or permanent resident card. If you don’t have one of those, or don’t know where it is, ask your parent or legal guardian. If you’re a dependent student, you’ll need their help with portions of the FAFSA anyway. If you are not a U.S. citizen, 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 tax records* — Use income records for the tax year prior to the academic year for which you are applying: so if you are filling out the 2014–15 FAFSA, you will need 2013 tax information. If you haven’t filed your taxes yet, you can always estimate the amounts using your 2012 tax return, just make sure to update your FAFSA once you file your 2013 taxes. If you have filed your taxes already, you may be able to automatically import your tax information into the FAFSA using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.
  5. Records of your untaxed income* — This includes a whole bunch of variables that may or may not apply to you, like child support received, interest income and veterans non-education benefits.
  6. Records of all your assets (money)* — This includes savings and checking account balances, as well as investments like stocks and bonds and real estate.
  7. List of the school(s) you are interested in attending — The schools you list on your FAFSA 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. You can list up to 10 schools on your FAFSA. If you’re applying to more than 10 schools, you can add more later. Be sure to list any school you’re considering, even if you’re not sure yet.

*If you’re a dependent student, you will need this information for your parent(s) as well.

Still have questions?

We’re here to help. Connect with us: StudentAid.gov/social.

Nicole Callahan is a new media analyst at the Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid.

5 Comments

  1. Simplify! Apply for a PIN when you do the FAFSA, that way you will not have to remember it! You can apply for parent and student PIN at the same time you complete the FAFSA

  2. My sixteen years old son is in the eleventh grade and hopefully next year he’ll graduate from high school. Then comes the hardest part, college. Thank you for the information. It is very useful.

      • Dear Willy,
        While it’s true that college might not be for everyone, the unemployment numbers fare far lower for college-educated adults than those without a degree. College offers people many more choices, and being well educated opens doors you cannot yet imagine. Don’t dismiss the opportunity. Why not apply for a scholarship?

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