Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

To apply for financial aid — including federal and state grants, work-study and loans — you need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This financial aid form may seem complex, but there are many free resources to help you.

Who can help me complete the FAFSA?

  • Department of Education offers FREE help by calling 1-800-433-3243
  • Visit the FAFSA Contact Us webpage for a list of local contact centers
  • Independent Living (IL) Providers
  • Case Worker
  • Foster Parent/Legal Guardian
  • Teacher
  • Mentor

Here are tips for foster youth to help answer some of the questions on the FAFSA form. Read the Tips for Completeing the FAFSA document.

FAFSA on the Web

You can complete, submit and track your application online. This is the easiest way to apply for federal aid. The online program even checks your data before it is sent to the processing center, so there’s less chance of making an error. FAFSA Worksheet – Complete this worksheet before completing the FAFSA – it provides a preview of the questions that you may be asked while completing the FAFSA.

Before You Apply

What Information Do I Need When I Fill Out the FAFSA – Checklist provided by

To complete the  FAFSA, you will need:

  • Your Social Security Number
  • Your Alien Registration Number (if you are not a U.S. citizen)
  • Your federal income tax returns, W-2s, and other records of money earned. (Note: You may be able to transfer your federal tax return information into your FAFSA using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool)
  • Bank statements and records of investments (if applicable)
  • Records of untaxed income (if applicable)
  • An FSA ID to sign electronically

Do I have to Provide My Parents’ Information on the FAFSA?

If you answer NO to ALL of these questions, then you may be considered a dependent student and may be required to provide your parents’ financial information when completing the FAFSA form.

  1. Will you be 24 or older by Jan. 1 of the school year for which you are applying for financial aid? For example, if you plan to start school in August 2022 for the 2022–23 school year, will you be 24 by Jan. 1, 2022 (i.e., were you born before Jan. 1, 1999)?
  2. Are you married or separated but not divorced?
  3. Will you be working toward a master’s or doctorate degree (such as M.A., MBA, M.D., J.D., Ph.D., Ed.D., etc.)?
  4. Do you have children who receive more than half of their support from you?
  5. Do you have dependents (other than children or a spouse) who live with you and receive more than half of their support from you?
  6. Are you currently serving on active duty in the U.S. armed forces for purposes other than training?
  7. Are you a veteran of the U.S. armed forces?
  8. At any time since you turned age 13, were both of your parents deceased, were you in foster care, or were you a ward or dependent of the court?
  9. Are you an emancipated minor or are you in a legal guardianship as determined by a court?
  10. Are you an unaccompanied youth who is homeless or self-supporting and at risk of being homeless?

Independent vs. Dependent Status

Student Aid Report (SAR)

The Student Aid Report (SAR) summarizes the information you report on your FAFSA. The schools you list on your FAFSA will have access to your SAR and will use the information to determine if you are eligible for federal and state student financial aid.


The verification process may be requested by the Department of Education and/or Financial Aid Administrator at the college or university you applied to. They will review the information you provide on the FAFSA to ensure accuracy. Usually only a certain percentage of students are selected for verification. However, keep in mind that some schools choose to do 100% verification so every student file is verified. 

Financial Aid Award Notification

Once the Financial Aid Administer at your college or university reviews your SAR, they will put together your financial aid package and send you an award notification. The award notification will include the financial calculation that determines the amount of aid you receive: Cost of Attendance (COA) minus Expected Family Contribution (EFC) = financial need. It will also list the financial aid awards that the college has determined you are eligible to receive. Financial aid awards may include:

  • Scholarships
  • Grants
  • Work-Study
  • Loans

Comparing Award Notifications

If you applied to several colleges/universities, once you receive the different financial aid award notifications, you should compare the financial aid packages offered from each school.

Accept or Decline the Financial Aid Award

Once you have decided on a school, you should take action by accepting or declining the offered financial aid.  Pay close attention to deadlines for accepting the award package. Deadlines are usually within two weeks after receiving the award notification. If a deadline is missed, you may risk losing a scholarship, grant, or loan assistance. If you find that the college you want to attend offers less aid than your financial need, be sure to look into ways of filling that financial aid gap.