To receive financial aid, which may include federal and state grants, work-study, and student loans you will need to first complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) opens on October 1 each year. Although this financial aid form may seem complex, there are many free resources to help you with the application process.
Where to find the FAFSA application:
Before You Apply for Financial Aid
Complete your income tax return
When completing your FAFSA, you and your family if required to will be able to use completed tax returns from “prior-prior year” financial information. You can transfer your income data directly from the IRS website using the Data Retrieval Tool to your FAFSA, making it easier to accurately complete the FAFSA.
Be sure to complete your FAFSA on or as soon after it becomes available on October 1. Filling out your FAFSA as early as possible can help you get a jump on other financial aid applications (state or institutional aid) that may have early deadlines. It also will give you more information earlier about the financial aid you qualify for and will help you make an informed decision about which college is the best financial fit for you.
Create an FSA ID
When you start your FAFSA using either the web application or the myStudentAid Mobile App, you will first need to create your FSA ID account by making a user ID name and password. These will become your online identifiers for all federal student aid programs. You will need to provide your own email address and password. (Parents will create their own account using a different email address and password). Set up your user ID and password before you start your FAFSA. Here’s a video on how to create an FSA ID.
Gathering Needed Documents
The FAFSA questions ask for information about you (your name, date of birth, address, etc.) and about your financial situation. Depending on your circumstances (for instance, whether you’re a U.S. citizen or what tax form you used), you might need the following information or documents as you fill out the application: See a list of the documents you need to get started.
Completing the Application
The FAFSA form is available on Oct. 1 for the next school year. It’s encouraged that you fill it out as soon as possible on or after Oct. 1 to meet FAFSA deadlines.
If you are starting the application for the first time on fafsa.gov, select “START HERE.” As you begin, keep the following in mind:
- Your name and Social Security number must match those on your Social Security card. Follow this tip to avoid getting a notice that your information doesn’t match the Social Security Administration’s records (or your FSA ID account).
- If you’re concerned about providing your personal information on the log-in page, choose the virtual keyboard option for additional security.
- To ensure the application functions properly, make sure the pop-up blocker in your browser allows pop-ups from fafsa.ed.gov. Learn how to enable pop-ups in your browser.
If you’re starting for the first time on the myStudentAid mobile app, you will select “START HERE” on the FAFSA tile, select your role, and then enter your FSA ID. You cannot fill out the FAFSA form on the mobile app without an FSA ID.
*If you’re a male between the ages of 18 and 25 and you haven’t registered with the Selective Service System, select “Yes” when you’re asked if you would like to be registered. Otherwise, you won’t be eligible to receive federal student aid. This requirement applies to any person assigned the sex of male at birth.
The following tips apply whether you’re filling out the form online or on the mobile app:
Near the beginning of the application, you’ll create a “save key,” a temporary password that you’ll use if you start your FAFSA form, save it without finishing it, then want to open it again later to finish it. One benefit of the save key is that students and parents can use this function to access the FAFSA form if they are completing the application in separate locations. (Unlike with the FSA ID, which needs to be kept private, it’s okay to tell your parent what your save key is.)
If you are applying for a summer session, contact the financial aid office at your college to find out which school year you should select when you complete your FAFSA form.
If you filled out a FAFSA form last year and want to renew it, select “LOG IN” on the FAFSA home page, select “I am the student,” enter your FSA ID, and be sure to select “FAFSA RENEWAL” once given the option. That way, many of the (nonfinancial) questions will be prefilled for you. Just be sure to update any information that has changed since last year.
Only the student can start a FAFSA renewal using his or her FSA ID. If you’re a dependent student and your parent helps you with your FAFSA form, you should start the FAFSA renewal, save it, and give the save key to your parent so he or she can access your FAFSA form.
If you’re using the mobile app and are eligible for a FAFSA renewal, your information will be prefilled.
Due to the coronavirus national emergency, processing of the FAFSA on Paper (PDF) may take longer than usual. We recommend filing your FAFSA form electronically to avoid processing delays.
Listing Colleges and/or Career Schools
While completing the FAFSA form, you must list at least one school to receive your information. The schools you list will use your FAFSA information to determine the types and amounts of aid you may receive. Use the Federal School Code Search to find the colleges you’re interested in including on your FAFSA form.
For purposes of federal student aid, it does not matter in what order you list the schools. However, to be considered for state aid, some states require you to list schools in a particular order (for instance, you might need to list a state school first). Find out whether your state has a requirement for the order in which you list schools on your FAFSA form.
You can list up to 10 schools online or in the mobile app or up to four schools on a FAFSA PDF. (You can add more schools to your FAFSA form later.) Schools you list on the application will automatically receive your FAFSA results electronically.
Note: Schools will not be able to see which other schools you listed on your FAFSA form.
You should add any school that you plan on applying to, or that you have applied to, even if you haven’t been accepted yet. In most cases, once a school accepts you, they will then work on developing your aid offer.
Determining Your Dependency Status
The FAFSA form asks a series of questions that determine whether you are a dependent or independent student for purposes of applying for federal student aid. If you are a dependent student, you must report parent information, as well as your own information, on your application. If you’re curious, you can find out now whether you’re a dependent student or not by reading below.
Dependent Student- A dependent student who does not meet any of the criteria for an independent student. An independent student is one of the following: at least 24 years old, married, a graduate or professional student, a veteran, a member of the armed forces, an orphan, a ward of the court, someone with legal dependents other than a spouse, an emancipated minor or someone who is homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.
Independent Student- An independent student is one of the following: at least 24 years old, married, a graduate or professional student, a veteran, a member of the armed forces, an orphan, a ward of the court, someone with legal dependents other than a spouse, an emancipated minor, or someone who is homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.
Reporting Parent(s) Information
If you’re a dependent student, you’ll need to report parent information on your FAFSA form. Visit our page on reporting parent information to find out who counts as your parent, what to do if you don’t live with your parents, and what to do if you don’t have access to your parent(s) financial information.
Providing Financial Information
The FAFSA form asks for financial information, including information from tax forms and balances of savings and checking accounts.
- 2021–22 FAFSA form asks for 2019 tax information.
- 2020–21 FAFSA form asks for 2018 tax information.
Note: If your or your family’s financial situation has changed significantly from what is reflected on your federal income tax return (for example, if you’ve lost a job or otherwise experienced a drop in income), you may be eligible to have your financial aid adjusted. Complete the FAFSA questions as instructed on the application (including the transfer of tax return and income information), submit your FAFSA form, then contact the school you plan to attend to discuss how your current financial situation has changed. Note that the school's decision is final and cannot be appealed to the U.S. Department of Education.
What to Do If Your Parents’ (or Your) Marital Status Has Changed Since Taxes Were Filed?
Here are some tips for this type of situation using the example of the 2021–22 FAFSA form:
The FAFSA form asks for marital status “as of today” (the day it’s filled out). So if the student or parent is married now but wasn’t in 2019 (and therefore didn’t file taxes as married), the spouse’s 2019 income will need to be added to the FAFSA form.
Similarly, if the student or parent filed 2019 taxes as married but is no longer married when filling out the FAFSA form, the spouse’s income will need to be subtracted.
And if the student or parent was married when filing 2019 taxes, then got divorced and is now married to someone else, there’s a bit more math to do: Subtract the ex’s income, then add the new spouse’s income.
The FAFSA help text covers all these situations in more detail as you’re filling out the application.
Automatically Transferring Your Tax Information Using the Internal Revenue Service Data Retrieval Tool (IRS DRT)
The IRS DRT automatically transfers tax information into the FAFSA form. Be sure to consider this option if it’s offered to you. (If you requested an extension on filing your taxes and didn’t file until September or later, find out when your tax return information will likely be available using the IRS DRT.)
Try This Resource: Simple Steps to Transfer Tax Information Into Your FAFSA® Form graphic—Explains how to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to transfer tax information into the FAFSA form.
Here’s how the IRS DRT process works, assuming your tax information is available:
- The IRS DRT takes you to the IRS website, where you’ll need to provide your name and other information exactly as you provided it on your tax return. Some information will be prepopulated from your FAFSA form.
- At the IRS site, you’ll see a page that indicates that your tax information is available. (For security and privacy protections, you won’t see the actual information.) You can choose to import your information into the FAFSA form, or you can cancel your request and return to the FAFSA site.
- If you choose to import your information into the FAFSA form, you’ll find that on the FAFSA site, instead of your tax information being displayed, you’ll see “Transferred from the IRS" in the appropriate fields. You won’t be able to make changes to those answers.
Using the IRS DRT saves you time and effort:
- You don’t have to find your tax records.
- You don’t have to worry about making mistakes entering your tax information on your FAFSA® form.
- You may not need to provide an IRS tax transcript or a signed copy of your income tax return if you’re selected for verification.
Can I change the tax return information that I transfer into the FAFSA form via the IRS DRT?
No. Information you transfer via the IRS DRT can’t be changed. Remember, the information transferred is coming from your filed tax return, so it shouldn’t need to be changed. If your financial situation has changed or you filed a 1040X amended return, contact your school’s financial aid office to discuss whether it would be appropriate for the school to adjust the information on your FAFSA form.
If I’ve transferred my tax return information into the FAFSA form via the IRS DRT, and then decide I want to enter the information manually instead, can I clear the information that was transferred via the DRT?
It's strongly discourage clearing the information. The IRS DRT remains the fastest, most accurate way to input your tax return information into the FAFSA form. Additionally, using the IRS DRT to enter your tax information into the FAFSA form may reduce the amount of paperwork you need to provide to your school later.
If, despite this, you still want to clear the information transferred via the IRS DRT and enter your tax information manually—and you haven’t submitted the application or correction yet—you can select the “Reset FAFSA” button at the top of the page (or in the menu at the upper right of the mobile app screen). Just know that by doing so, the entire application or correction will be cleared, and you will have to start the entire application or correction over again.
If I enter my tax information manually, will I be able to see it?
Yes. Tax return information that’s entered manually will be visible on fafsa.gov, in the mobile app, and on your Student Aid Report.
Signing and Submitting the FAFSA Form
Before your FAFSA form can be processed, you’ll need to sign and submit the application. Here are some tips as you finish your FAFSA form:
- To ensure the application functions properly, make sure the pop-up blocker in your browser allows pop-ups from fafsa.ed.gov. Learn how to enable pop-ups in your browser.
- Be sure to sign with your FSA ID (your username and password) so your FAFSA form will be processed as quickly as possible. (If you log in to the form by providing your FSA ID, you won’t be asked for it again when it’s time to sign. However, if you’re providing parent information, one of your parents will be required to sign your application.)
- While your online FAFSA form will be processed much quicker if you (and your parent if you’re a dependent student) sign your FAFSA form with your FSA ID, you have the option to print out, sign, and mail in a signature page to the address listed on the page. Learn more about printing a signature page.
- Once you see your confirmation page, you’ll know you’ve successfully submitted your FAFSA form. If you provided an email address on the form, you’ll automatically receive the confirmation page by email. There are a few differences between the emailed confirmation and the one you’ll see in the FAFSA form before exiting the application, so consider printing or saving your confirmation page before you exit. For example, the emailed confirmation won’t include the college graduation, retention, and transfer rates for schools you listed on your FAFSA form.
- There are some states that have a partnership with our office that allows you to transfer your information directly into your state aid form (for example, New York residents can use this interface to link directly to the application for the Tuition Assistance Program [TAP]). When you fill out the FAFSA form, you’ll have the option to apply with certain state financial aid forms. So, if you see a link from your FAFSA confirmation page to your state financial aid form, you should select it. The link will appear only on the confirmation page within the FAFSA form, so be sure to take advantage of it while you’re still in the application.
- Your confirmation page offers the option for the parent information in your FAFSA form to be transferred automatically into another student’s application. So if you have a sibling who needs to fill out a FAFSA form, be sure to use this option when you see your confirmation page. The link will appear only on the confirmation page within the FAFSA form, so be sure to take advantage of it while you’re still in the application. Note: If you’re filling out the FAFSA form on the myStudentAid app, your parent will see this option only if they sign and submit after you.
Top FAFSA Tips
- Read all questions and instructions carefully.
- Meet deadlines.
- Check your email (including spam) regularly for any messages from Federal Student Aid or your college.
Taking the Next Steps
Once you’ve completed your FAFSA form, there are more steps you have to take before you receive financial aid. Make sure you know what happens after you submit your FAFSA form.
View your Student Aid Report (SAR)
After the information you provided is analyzed, you will receive a SAR that contains the data you entered on the FAFSA. The U.S. Department of Education will send this form to you either by email or by postal mail.
Review the SAR carefully for errors (the form highlights items that may need attention) and follow directions for making and submitting corrections. Submit corrections promptly. Make sure to keep a copy of the SAR for your records.
Be aware of your Expected Family Contribution (EFC)
On the front page of the SAR, you'll find a figure called the expected family contribution (EFC). Your EFC is an indicator of your family’s financial strength. It is sent to your state scholarship agency as well as to the colleges you listed on the FAFSA. They use this number to determine your financial aid award. Learn more about the EFC.
Watch for an Aid Offer notification
Many schools won’t begin the Aid Offer process for the next year’s fafsa application until after the first of the year
Be aware of how the school you have chosen communicates.
Provide Required Verification
You might see an asterisk on your SAR, which means you’ve been selected for verification. Your college of choice will inform you that you’ve been selected. Verification is the process your college uses to confirm that the data reported on your FAFSA form is accurate. If you’re selected for verification, your college will request additional documentation that supports the information you reported.
Don’t assume you’re being accused of doing anything wrong. Some people are selected for verification at random; and some schools verify all students' FAFSA forms. All you need to do is provide the documentation your school asks for—and be sure to do so by the college’s deadline, or you won’t be able to get financial aid.
Make sure you submit any other additional financial aid forms and documents that your college of choice requires.
Decide What Aid to Accept
First, you’ll need to understand the aid that’s being offered. For instance, is it free money such as a grant or scholarship, or is it a loan that you’ll have to pay back? Next, decide what aid you really need, and then respond to the school’s aid offer within the deadline set by the school. Learn more about accepting aid.
Learn How Your Aid Is Paid Out
If you were offered financial aid and you accepted it, the financial aid staff at your college or career school will explain exactly how and when your aid will be paid out. They’ll also tell you whether you need to fill out any more paperwork or meet other requirements. For instance, if you excepted a federal student loan for the first time, you should expect to be required to go through entrance counseling and sign a master promissory note (MPN). Be sure to keep in touch with your college’s financial aid office so that you understand the whole process of receiving your aid offer.
Common FAFSA Mistakes
Financial Aid Resources
Need In Person Help With the FAFSA?
Umpqua Community Colleges Financial Aid Office is offering the opportunity to schedule a one on one Virtual Financial Aid Application Assistance appointment using Zoom. Click here for more information
The Financial Aid Office at Umpqua Community College has available for those that have Financial Aid Questions to be Answered the chance to attend an open Q & A session that is held every Wednesday from 1 p.m. - 2 p.m. Click here for more information.
Cancellations of Appointment
If you are unable to attend the scheduled FAFSA zoom meeting appointment please cancel your appointment by going to your confirmation email and cancel your scheduled appointment. You can also reschedule for a different day and time the same way.