Ten Things You Might Not Know About the FAFSA

Quick Tips to Make It Easier to File a FAFSA

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Have you started your FAFSA yet? If not, it’s time to get cracking. You have deadlines to meet, information to gather, and even a few decisions to make. If you have your documentation together, you should be able to move through the FAFSA at a pretty reasonable pace. To help make things somewhat easier, though, here are 10 things you might not know about the FAFSA.

Parents and Students Need Separate FSA IDs

Both the student and the parents must have a unique FSA ID. This is a username and password which gives you access to federal student aid information and serves as your FAFSA signature. Parents should let students create their own FSA ID in case the student needs to go back and change anything.

It’s Color-Coded!

Not sure whether you are filling out information for the student or the parent? Look at the page borders. Purple is for parents, and student colors change annually on a four-year rotation cycle of orange, green, blue, and yellow. The student form color is green for the 2021-2022 FAFSA.

You Don’t Have to Complete It in One Sitting

You have the option of creating what is called a “Save Key.” This is a temporary password that will let you save an incomplete FAFSA, and return to the application later to add more information. The Save Key also permits you to share the application with parents, if they need to add information or sign it.

It Can Be Smarter Than You Are

The FAFSA is designed as a “smart” form. This means it analyzes your answers and then helps lead you through the questions that apply to your specific information. You don’t have to answer everything - just the questions that the form brings up for you - but you can’t skip anything either because it won’t move on if you haven’t provided an answer.

It’s Easy to Miss the Work-Study Opportunity

This is a great opportunity for eligible students to earn money towards college, but it can be easy to miss. Make sure you check “Yes” in response to the work-study question.

You Can Send Information to More Than Ten Colleges

The form only allows you to select up to 10 schools at a time to receive your information. If you have more than 10, list the first 10 when you initially complete the FAFSA. After you receive your confirmation and Student Aid Report (SAR), you can go back, delete schools and add those which were not submitted the first time. The deleted school will not have automatic access to subsequent new information.

The Order of Colleges

There used to be some consternation about which college to list first, and whether seeing other colleges listed might impact a specific school’s financial aid decision. For federal student aid, the order of schools listed does not matter. Some states, however, require a certain order, and prioritize from it.

Check the Student Portal

If you are waiting for a decision from a specific college, be sure to check your student portal. They may have posted a request for verification regarding certain FAFSA information there. You will need to supply this documentation prior to receiving a financial aid decision.

Help Is Always Available

Look on the right side of the window for helpful hints, or hover your cursor over a particular question. If you are still stumped, you can call or live chat with helpful representatives as you are completing the form.

Two Signatures May Be Required

Unless the student is independent, both the student and the parents will have to sign the FAFSA using the FSA ID. You may also print, sign, and mail the signature page after you have submitted the FAFSA Form.