FAFSA: How to Get Started
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the most important application you will complete in order to qualify for financial aid. The financial information you provide on the FAFSA is used to determine the student's eligibility for federal student loan and grant programs. Colleges will also use the FAFSA to determine institutional financial aid.
The FAFSA can be daunting, but these resources will help to make the process go smoothly.
1) Make sure to write down your FSA Account information.
You will file the FAFSA every year your student is in college and recovering your FSA Account if you forgot the username and password is no fun. The FSA Account Record sheet below is the best way to keep track of it. Please make sure to put this sheet in a secure location so that your SSN isn't compromised. You, the parent, and your students will each need a FSA Account. Create your FSA Accounts 1-3 days before you plan to file the FAFSA, so they can be fully authenticated and usable.
2) Come to FAFSA Completion Night!
Each year, we host an evening session with our PHEAA representative who helps parents and students complete their FAFSA. This is the best way to ensure your questions are answered and it's especially helpful if this is the first time you are completing a FAFSA application.
3) Gather up paper copies of your W-2, asset statements, savings account statements, etc.
The FAFSA has a relatively new feature called the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (IRS DRT) which populates your FAFSA application with information from your prior, prior year tax return. However, there are some special cases in which filers cannot use the IRS DRT, so make sure to have paper copies nearby. The FAFSA Tipsheet below provides a list of exactly what you'll need.
4) Be aware of your deadlines.
Most colleges will have a priority filing deadline for the FAFSA. This ensures that students receive their financial aid offer in a timely manner, like with or soon after your student receives their admissions decision.
5) File the PA State Grant Form (PA SGF)!
This is an additional source of financial aid from the Pennsylvania State Government. After submitting the FAFSA, you will receive a pop-up notification asking if you'd like to file a PA SGF. This notification will only appear the first time you open the FAFSA, so remember to file the PA SGF later if you opted not to.
If you've never filed a FAFSA before and would like to get an overview of what to expect, please watch the overview below provided by PHEAA.
*Note that the password is required for viewing.
FSA Account How-To
FSA Account Record Sheet