Completing the FAFSA

If you’re planning to use financial aid for college next year, the FAFSA is the place to begin.  The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is your gateway to receive all kinds of federal and state financial aid.

Complete the FAFSA as soon as possible after January 1.  Deadlines for different types of aid vary, so completing the FAFSA early will put you in the best possible position to receive aid.  You’ll want to complete the FAFSA, even if you think you won’t qualify for financial aid. There are some types of student loans that are not based on financial need, but you still need the FAFSA to qualify.

You can find the FAFSA online at Remember, the first word in FAFSA is “Free.”  If you’re being asked to pay to complete it, you are not on the official web site.

The FAFSA asks for information about you and your financial situation, as well as that of your parents if you are a dependent student.  You may need the following information/paperwork to complete the FAFSA:

  • Your Social Security number
  • Your parents’ Social Security numbers if you are a dependent student
  • Your driver’s license number if you have one
  • A Federal Student Aid PIN to sign electronically. (If you do not already have one, visit to obtain one.)
  • Your Alien Registration Number if you are not a U.S. citizen
  • Federal tax information or tax returns including IRS W-2 information, for you (and your spouse, if you are married), and for your parents if you are a dependent student:
  • IRS 1040, 1040A, 1040EZ
  • Foreign tax return and/or
  • Tax return for Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Marshall Islands, the Federal States of Micronesia, or Palau
  • Records of your untaxed income, such as child support received, interest income, and veterans non-education benefits, for you, and for your parents if you are a dependent student
  • Information on cash; savings and checking account balances; investments, including stocks and bonds and real estate but not including the home in which you live; and business and farm assets for you, and for your parents if you are a dependent student


If you’ve completed the FAFSA in the past, and have any tips, please share them here.

Caroline Hanson

About Caroline Hanson

Caroline is a communications consultant for Wells Fargo Education Financial Services. Although she has been known to forget her own ZIP code, she has memorized the lyrics to every bad 1970s pop song ever written. Unfortunately, she also loves karaoke. Caroline spends her spare time at Target®. She also likes biking slowly and has participated in RAGBRAI. Caroline is a graduate of Iowa State University and has worked in journalism and public relations for the past 14 years. She lives in Iowa with her husband and has a 19-year-old stepdaughter and 2-year-old son.
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