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What is FAFSA? Federal Student Aid Available Now

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the first step in the financial aid process. You use the FAFSA to apply for federal student aid, such as grants, work-study, and loans. In addition, most states and colleges use information from the FAFSA to award nonfederal aid.

Federal Student Aid, a part of the U.S. Department of Education, is the largest provider of student financial aid in the nation. At the office of Federal Student Aid, 1,200 employees help make college education possible for everyone by providing more than $150 billion in federal grants, loans, and work-study funds each year to more than 13 million students paying for college or career school.

Federal Student Aid ensures that students and their families can benefit from these programs by

  • Informing students and families about the availability of the federal student aid programs and the process for applying for and receiving aid from those programs
  • Developing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) and processing approximately 22 million FAFSA submissions each year
  • Accurately disbursing, reconciling, and accounting for all federal student aid funds that are delivered to students each year through more than 6,200 colleges and career schools
  • Managing the outstanding federal student loan portfolio and securing repayment from federal student loan borrowers
  • Offering free assistance to students, parents, and borrowers throughout the entire financial aid process
  • Providing oversight and monitoring of all program participants—schools, financial entities, and students—to ensure compliance with the laws, regulations, and policies governing the federal student aid programs.


  • The FAFSA was available on October 1 for the next school year: 2017-2018. We encourage you to fill it out as soon as possible after October 1 to meet FAFSA deadlines. Applications must be submitted by midnight Central Time, June 30, 2018.
  • However, there are a few federal student aid programs that have limited funds, so be sure to apply as soon as you can once the FAFSA is available for the year you’ll be attending school.
  • Be aware that each state has a different deadline.
  • Each college may have a different deadline. Check with the college(s) you are interested in attending. You may also want to ask your college about its definition of an application deadline—whether it is the date the college receives your FAFSA, or the date your FAFSA is processed.
  • Your college must have your correct, complete information by your last day of enrollment in the 2017 – 2018 school year.
  • Find more detailed information on deadlines here.

Providing tax information:

  • The easiest way to complete or correct your FAFSA with accurate tax information is by using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. Most students and parents who filed a prior year tax return can view and transfer their tax return information directly into their FAFSA.
  • If you (or your parents) have missed the prior year tax filing deadline of April 15, and still need to file a prior year income tax return with the Internal Revenue Service, you should submit your FAFSA now using estimated tax information, and then you must correct that information after you file your return.
  • Both parents or both the student and spouse may need to report income information on the FAFSA if they did not file a joint tax return for the prior year.
  • If you or your family experienced significant changes to your financial situation (such as loss of employment), or other unusual circumstances (such as high unreimbursed medical or dental expenses), complete this form to the extent you can and submit it as instructed.

Using the information on your FAFSA and your EFC (Expected Family Contribution), the financial aid office at your college will determine the amount of aid you will receive. The college will use your EFC to prepare a financial aid package to help you meet your financial need. Financial need is the difference between the cost of attendance (which can include living expenses), as determined by your college, and your EFC. If you are eligible for a Federal Pell Grant, you may receive it from only one college for the same period of enrollment. If you or your family has unusual circumstances that should be taken into account, contact your college’s financial aid office. Some examples of unusual circumstances are: unusual medical or dental expenses or a large change in income from the prior year to this year.

Any financial aid you are eligible to receive will be paid to you through your college. Typically, your college will first use the aid to pay tuition, fees and room and board (if provided by the college). Any remaining aid is paid to you for your other educational expenses.

If you are completing a paper FAFSA, you can only list four colleges in the school code step. You may add more colleges by doing one of the following:

  • After your FAFSA has been processed, go to FAFSA. Click the Login button on the home page to login to FAFSA, then click Make FAFSA Corrections.
  • Use the Student Aid Report (SAR), which you will receive after your FAFSA is processed. Your Data Release Number (DRN) verifies your identity and will be listed on the first page of your SAR. You can call 1-800-433-3243 and provide your DRN to a customer service representative, who will add more school codes for you.
  • Provide your DRN to the financial aid administrator at the college you want added, and he or she can add their school code to your FAFSA.
  • Your FAFSA record can only list up to ten school codes. If there are ten school codes on your record, each new code will need to replace one of the school codes listed.

Remember that there’s only so much money in the FAFSA pot—once applications open and the clock starts ticking, you need to get your application in as soon as possible. Delay could mean that FAFSA funds have all been granted, and you will be out of luck!

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