Find answers to our Frequently Asked Questions.
Posted September 14, 2020

High school seniors and college students, mark your calendars: the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) opens October 1. Through this application, you’re considered for federal, state, and institutional grants, scholarships, loans, and work-study.

While there is plenty of time before the FAFSA is due, it’s in a student’s best interest to submit it as soon as possible.

Keep these six things in mind as you begin to prepare and go through the application process. Learn more tips and tricks on navigating applications, grants, loans and more by visiting our Paying for College page.

Priority Deadlines

Every university has a priority deadline for consideration of grant funding – aka free money for school. You may submit your FAFSA as early as October 1 the year prior to the academic year for which you’ll attend. Aim to submit as soon as possible as some financial aid is awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis.


Both parents and students will need to sign the application using their FSA ID. If it’s your first time submitting the FAFSA, you may use it immediately. All other activities, including a Renewal FAFSA form, require reverification with the Social Security Administration. This process may take anywhere from one to three days, so plan accordingly. Once you receive the email, you’re able to use your FSA ID to access all of your financial aid information online.


If you’d like to be considered for work-study, be sure to select ‘yes’ when the question comes up. If there are funds available, the option will be included in your financial aid award. This doesn’t secure a work-study job; you still have to apply through your school and work there to earn the funds. If you wish to decline it later, however, you can.

Required Documents

To complete the FAFSA, families must gather necessary documents. This may include Social Security or Alien Registration Number(s), income tax returns from two years prior, W-2s for both you and your parents, and bank and investment statements. You will get a better idea of what information you may have to collect as you begin filling out the FAFSA.

IRS Data Retrieval Tool

Students and parents have the option to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to make filling out the application easier. By clicking ‘Link to IRS,’ you’ll be sent to the IRS website to retrieve information that is transferred to the FAFSA. The information isn’t visible and the process conveniently ensures accuracy.

Save Key

Know that you don’t have to complete the FAFSA in one sitting (though it may be doable!). One easy way to start where you left off is to create a save key. Simply click ‘Save’ at the bottom of the FAFSA page and when prompted, create your password using the guidelines provided.

COVID-19 Updates for Financial Aid Students

The coronavirus outbreak is affecting students in many ways, from education interruptions to concerns about financial aid. The pandemic may have derailed your plans for making school affordable, but assistance is still available. Contact the financial aid office at your school to address your specific questions and concerns.

To stay up-to-date, check out for the latest announcements regarding federal student aid programs.

Access free resources covering a wide variety of topics in our Pay for College Guidance section.